In light of recent updates regarding the COVID-19 epidemic, the world has descended into a state of panic, with shops being stripped of their stock of toilet rolls, hand sanitiser and soap and public events being cancelled to prevent further spread of disease. However, while emphasis has been put on the detrimental physical effects of the illness, has society truly considered the psychological effects self-isolation, the current guidance for individuals who think they may have the illness, might have?
Studies have shown that social isolation is associated with a higher incidence of depression, anxiety and self-harm (Bennett, 2018). Humans are naturally social beings whose biological instincts crave social interaction and relationships. In the same way that modern taste buds were developed through natural selection in order to favour individuals who showed preference to fats, sugars and salts, all of which are high in calories and therefore, beneficial for survival, the need for social interaction was developed over many millennia in response to the “safety in numbers” mentality. While in the modern era, social isolation is not as much of a threat to physical safety in the same way it would have been when these traits were developed, the innate biological alarm bells will still ring and induce feelings of loneliness and depression in the isolated individual.
Inability to attend mental healthcare sessions while self-isolatingTraditional systems would, in situations like these, call for patients to seek referral from GPs before being offered face-to-face appointments for services like counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other talking therapies. However, with individuals being advised to stay at home, this is not feasible and is inevitably going to
home, this is not feasible and is inevitably going to lead to individuals feeling stuck, with nowhere to go for help (NHS, 2020).
To further escalate this issue, individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions, for which they receive support, who are self-isolating will be unable to attend their sessions, not only putting their progress at risk but also potentially risking losing their allocated slot and as a result being put to the back of the waiting lists.
It has been evident over the preceding months, that public fear surrounding the COVID-19 virus has been on the rise. I general, humans react poorly to changes in the environment, with many people experiencing feelings of unease, anxiety and lack of safety as a result of even minor changes to the immediate environment (Shigemura, 2019). However, with daily media reporting on the current situation from a variety of sources of varying credibility, the public have descended into a state of unknown and mistrust. It is, therefore, understandable that individuals may be struggling with their mental health during a period of such uncertainty.
While COVID-19 has caused large scale panic and chaos in a wide variety of areas, in terms of mental health, the solution is simple. Digital mental healthcare has been in development for years and has recently been introduced to a select few NHS trusts with great success. The Dr Julian team are proud to have been at the forefront of this movement to modernise mental healthcare.A review of over 200 randomised controlled trials of tele-therapy/psychiatry appointments delivered via video link showed equivalent clinical outcomes
to in room therapy with better patient satisfaction (Chakrabarti, 2015). Since going live in December 2018, all patients referred for online therapy with Dr Julian have been offered online appointments within 24 hours of first logging on to the platform, with early results showing full recovery in 70% of patients and reliable improvement in 90% of patients.
The Dr Julian platform reduces the rate of “Did not attend” (DNA) patients by cutting out the need for travel, which is particularly important in the context of COVID-19. Patients can attend sessions from the comfort of their own homes, without the risk of infecting/infection from others. They do not need to be concerned if usual travel routes are disrupted by public safety measures and they can continue to receive quality mental health care no matter what their infection status or their concern about contracting the virus.
Bennett, K., Gualtieri, T., Kazmierczyk, B., 2018. Undoing solitary urban design: A review of risk factors and mental health outcomes associated with living in social isolation. [online] Available at: https://pennstate.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/undoing-solitary-urban-design-a-review-of-risk-factors-and-mental-2 [Accessed 13 Mar 2020]
Chakrabarati, S., 2015. Usefulness of tele psychiatry: A critical evaluation of videoconferencing-based approaches. World Journal of Psychiatry 22:5(3), 286-304. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4582305/pdf/WJP-5-286.pdf [Accessed 13 Mar 2020]
NHS, 2020. Corona Virus (COVID-19) – Overview. NHS Online. [Online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ [Accessed 13 Mar 2020]
Shigemura J, Ursano RJ, Morganstein JC, Kurosawa M, Benedek DM. Public responses to the novel 2019 coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Japan: mental health consequences and target populations. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. [online] Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/pcn.12988