Impact of COVID-19 on mental health: Effects on screening, care delivery, and people with cystic fibrosis

Smith, Beth A, Georgiopoulos, Anna M, Mueller, Amy, Abbott, Janice orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9851-1236, Lomas, Paula, Aliaj, Enid and Quittner, Alexander A (2021) Impact of COVID-19 on mental health: Effects on screening, care delivery, and people with cystic fibrosis. Journal of Cystic Fibrosis, 20 (3). pp. 31-38. ISSN 1569-1993

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Background: Depression and anxiety are two to four times more prevalent in people with CF (pwCF) than the general population. COVID-19 may exacerbate mental health challenges, increasing demand for psychological services, while decreasing their availability. We assessed the impact of the pandemic on depression and anxiety in pwCF, including how COVID-19 affected the frequency of mental health screening and the types of services provided.
Methods: A 38-item internet survey, completed in June 2020, assessed how COVID-19 affected: 1) the mental health clinician’s role and screening processes; 2) barriers to screening and resource needs; 3) impact of COVID-19 on depression and anxiety, and 4) positive outcomes and confidence in sustaining mental health screening and treatment, including telehealth services, after the pandemic.
Results: Responses were obtained from 131 of the 289 US CF programs. Overall, 60% of programs (n=79) continued mental health screening and treatment, although less frequently; 50% provided individual telemental health interventions, and 9% provided telehealth group therapy. Clinically elevated depression symptoms (PHQ-9≥10; moderate to severe), were found in 12% of 785 pwCF, with 3.1% endorsing suicidal ideation. Similarly, elevated anxiety (moderate to severe; GAD-7≥10) was found in 13% of pwCF (n=779).
Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity to implement innovative solutions to disruptions in mental health screening and treatment in CF programs. We found that pwCF had increased access to psychological interventions during the pandemic via telehealth, supporting the continued integration of tele-mental health screening and treatment into CF care.

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