[Skip to Content]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
[Skip to Content Landing]
April 10, 2020

The Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19 and Physical Distancing: The Need for Prevention and Early Intervention

Author Affiliations
  • 1Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Emergency Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • 3Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. Oslo, Norway
JAMA Intern Med. 2020;180(6):817-818. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.1562

Since the first case of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was diagnosed in December 2019, it has swept across the world and galvanized global action. This has brought unprecedented efforts to institute the practice of physical distancing (called in most cases “social distancing”) in countries all over the world, resulting in changes in national behavioral patterns and shutdowns of usual day-to-day functioning.

While these steps may be critical to mitigate the spread of this disease, they will undoubtedly have consequences for mental health and well-being in both the short and long term. These consequences are of sufficient importance that immediate efforts focused on prevention and direct intervention are needed to address the impact of the outbreak on individual and population level mental health.

Limit 200 characters
Limit 25 characters
Conflicts of Interest Disclosure

Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.

Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.

Err on the side of full disclosure.

If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.

Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.

Limit 140 characters
Limit 3600 characters or approximately 600 words
    3 Comments for this article
    New York is not 100% the U.S.
    XIOMARA SPADAFORA, Coomunications-Journalist | Blogger
    I believe you forgot one other--rather important--measure to counteract the spiral of the mental health epidemic: To modify lock downs in communities, as soon as possible, depending on their cases and fatality rates so people can return to a level of normalcy. New York is, by many measures, entirely different form the rest of the country. Its density of population, massive public transportation, and proximity of housing are key factors left out often when analyzing data.
    Jim Meehan, Mental health nurse | Primary care
    Whilst the article identifies places of worship as important socially there is no reference to spirituality per se.

    In the excellent tome upon which much my psychiatric training was based (ref), Mental health psychistric nursing - a holistic life cycle approach, a theme running throughout was the five essential domains upon which we could frame human experience, development, and adaptability. These are social, physical, intellectual, emotiona,l and spiritual.
    We negate the spiritual at our peril but in the post religious world where faith has for some become a term to be feared or favoured by association as
    appropriate, we forget the relevance of spirituality. If through a global collaboration of minds and hearts we as a body of humanity can show true love for and through each other and show genuine care and compassion to offset the suffering and neglect that riddles our communities then we will show the power of love which is the basis of true human spirituality. So let's remember that aspect of humanity and not just refer to mental health without the spiritual heart. One aspect of the crisis is that people are sharing and showing concern for others and this can be mutually therapeutic for the giver and the person receiving the gesture. As is often the case in the aftermath of a disaster we see the best of humanity. At a time when the so called great Faiths have been compelled to stop gathering together in order to protect each other when the gatherings in numbers has been in order to pray for each other, ironically this could unite people of all faiths and none if set times for prayer and or meditation can be agreed and implemented throughout the world. To come together virtually to pray and meditate for the good of all. Perhaps this one will be another step along the way to real learning from history and a means to unifying all countries in a commonwealth of spirituality.

    How to combat the emotional impact of COVID-19
    Antione Johnson, Master of Arts Special Ed | Trauma Informed Facilitator child and youth residentail treatment center
    Yes this pandemic is going to cost many lives, but taking care of our emotional needs will be of the utmost importance. Self-care when properly administered can make the difference between mental wellness and mental illness. There are a host of ways we can practice self-care during this pandemic:

    1. Aroma therapy: Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. Sometimes it's called essential oil therapy. Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. It enhances both physical and emotional health.

    Bibliotherapy: A therapeutic approach that uses literature to support good mental health, is a versatile and cost-effective treatment option often adapted or used to supplement other types of therapy. Proponents of the approach suggest mild to moderate symptoms of several mood-related conditions can be successfully treated with reading activities.

    3. Chromtherapy: Color therapy/ color healing is based on the idea that colors create electrical impulses in our brains that stimulate hormonal and biochemical processes in our body; these processes either calm or stimulate us. The types of color therapy sessions on the market are as varied as the colors of the rainbow. Color therapy is an alternative therapy that uses colors and their frequencies to heal physical and emotional problems. Color therapy is also known as chromopathy, chromotherapy,

    4. Music Therapy:  The soothing power of music is well-established. It has a unique link to our emotions, so can be an extremely effective stress management tool. Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet classical music.

    These are just a few I have experienced as a combat veteran with PTSD , but there are other forms of self care interventions.