The COVID-19 disaster and mental health—assessing, responding and recovering

Jutta Lindert, Marija Jakubauskiene, Johan Bilsen

European Journal of Public Health, Volume 31, Issue Supplement_4, November 2021, Pages iv31–iv35,


The coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic is a disaster that has impacted lives globally. The purpose of this paper is to understand the linkage between COVID-19 and its impact on mental health. To reach this aim, we reviewed the literature on COVID-19 and mental conditions. Based on the literature, we identified COVID-19 as an unexpected, large-scale event that disrupted communities and caused death, destruction and trauma which upended normal existence. For mental conditions, effects of the pandemic are likely to manifest in different ways: development of symptoms in previously healthy individuals, new episodes in those with predisposition to mental disorders and development of symptoms that do not meet diagnostic criteria. The level of mental health problems varies depending on the stage of the pandemic, country, population groups and types of conditions. This also applies to the level of suicide, although suicides do not seem to have increased during the pandemic. Yet, we identified a net of factors contributing to mental conditions, in general. These factors include demographic factors (e.g. female gender, younger and older age), social factors (e.g. economically disadvantaged), mental factors (e.g. pre-existing mental conditions) and relationship factors (e.g. stressful relationship, lack of relationships). Additionally, we identified COVID-19-specific factors such as threat to own life and threat to life of loved ones, containment measures and interruption of services and social life. We further explored potentially additional suicide-related risk factors. Regardless of differences, health care and psychosocial systems were in many countries not prepared to respond to a viral disaster. Viral disaster requires that responses not only include direct care but also responses to populations that may need support due to known determinants of mental health.

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The COVID-19 disaster and mental health—assessing, responding and recovering