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Joint International Collaboration to Combat Mental Health Challenges During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic

Educational Objective
To understand the need for international collaboration to combat mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic
1 Credit CME

In the past several months, the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has received extensive attention globally. It was first reported in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, at the end of 2019 and was transmitted to multiple regions of China and subsequently to many countries in the East and the West. As of March 30, 2020, the number of patients infected with COVID-19 has rapidly reached 693 224 globally, especially across the North American, European, and Eastern Mediterranean regions, including in the US, Italy, Spain, and Iran.1 The rapid transmission of COVID-19, high fatality rates in subpopulations, lack of effective treatments and vaccines, and mass quarantine measures have led to common mental health problems, such as fear, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems, in patients with COVID-19 infections, close contacts, the public, and even health care professionals.2,3 Therefore, there is a pressing need to establish appropriate mental health services to address the risk of psychiatric morbidities. Mental health professionals are facing insurmountable challenges because of the lack of relevant guidelines, scant mental health resources, and inadequate training to provide mental health services in isolation infectious units and hospitals. Patients with serious psychiatric needs are considered a highly vulnerable population to contract COVID-19. For example, hundreds of patients with psychiatric disorders, as well as mental health professionals, were infected in China.4 As such, a joint effort to establish international collaboration is urgently needed to address the mental health challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Yu-Tao Xiang, MD, PhD, Unit of Psychiatry, Institute of Translational Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Macau, Avenida da Universidade, 3/F, Building E12, Taipa, Macao Special Administrative Region, China (xyutly@gmail.com).

Published Online: April 10, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.1057

Author Contributions: Drs Xiang and Jin contributed equally to this work.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The study was supported by the National Science and Technology Major Project for investigational new drugs (grant 2018ZX09201-014), the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission (grant Z181100001518005), and the University of Macau (grant MYRG2019-00066-FHS). No other disclosures were reported.

Additional Contributions: The authors thank Chee H. Ng, MD, MBBS, Department of Psychiatry, The Melbourne Clinic and St Vincent's Hospital, University of Melbourne, for his contribution to this article. He was not compensated.

References
1.
World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation report—70. Published 2020. Accessed March 31, 2020. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200330-sitrep-70-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=7e0fe3f8_2
2.
Xiang  YT , Yang  Y , Li  W ,  et al.  Timely mental health care for the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak is urgently needed.   Lancet Psychiatry. 2020;7(3):228-229. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30046-8PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
3.
Yang  Y , Li  W , Zhang  Q , Zhang  L , Cheung  T , Xiang  YT .  Mental health services for older adults in China during the COVID-19 outbreak.   Lancet Psychiatry. 2020;7(4):e19. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30079-1PubMedGoogle Scholar
4.
Xiang  Y-T , Zhao  Y-J , Liu  Z-H ,  et al.  The COVID-19 outbreak and psychiatric hospitals in China: managing challenges through mental health service reform.   Int J Biol Sci. 2020;16(10):1741-1744. doi:10.7150/ijbs.45072PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
5.
Li  W , Yang  Y , Liu  Z-H ,  et al.  Progression of mental health services during the COVID-19 outbreak in China.   Int J Biol Sci. 2020;16(10):1732-1738. doi:10.7150/ijbs.45120PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
6.
Lai  J , Ma  S , Wang  Y ,  et al.  Factors associated with mental health outcomes among health care workers exposed to coronavirus disease 2019.   JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(3):e203976. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3976PubMedGoogle Scholar
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