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COVID-19 and Psychological Distress—Changes in Internet Searches for Mental Health Issues in New York During the Pandemic

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

The highly contagious nature of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, leading to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, necessitated the enactment of public health actions on an unprecedented scale in US history. Closure of all nonessential businesses along with strict social-distancing measures were instituted to curb disease transmission across the nation. After gradually closing some businesses and schools, the state of New York instituted New York State on PAUSE, a statewide lockdown, effective on March 22, 2020. Social isolation, restrictions of activities, workplace closures, as well as associated financial losses and the fears of COVID-19 may place a considerable psychological burden on people. Literature on the effects of quarantine highlights their negative consequences on mental health.1 To better understand mental health concerns during the New York COVID-19 lockdown, we analyzed trends in internet searches for mental health issues.

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Article Information

Accepted for Publication: June 9, 2020.

Corresponding Author: Stefan Stijelja, BS, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, CP 8888, Succ Centre-Ville, Montreal H3C 3P8, Canada (stijela.stefan.2@uqam.ca).

Published Online: October 5, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.3271

Author Contributions: Mr Stijelja had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: Stijelja.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.

Drafting of the manuscript: Stijelja.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.

Statistical analysis: Stijelja.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Mishara.

Supervision: All authors.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

References
1.
Brooks  SK , Webster  RK , Smith  LE ,  et al.  The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence.   Lancet. 2020;395(10227):912-920. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
2.
Ayers  JW , Althouse  BM , Leas  EC , Dredze  M , Allem  J-P .  Internet searches for suicide following the release of 13 Reasons Why.   JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(10):1527-1529. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.3333 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
3.
Watkins  A , Rothfeld  M , Rashbaum  WK , Rosenthal  BM . Top E.R. doctor who treated virus patients dies by suicide. The New York Times. April 27, 2020. Updated April 29, 2020. Accessed September 2, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/27/nyregion/new-york-city-doctor-suicide-coronavirus.html
4.
Van Orden  KA , Witte  TK , Cukrowicz  KC , Braithwaite  SR , Selby  EA , Joiner  TE  Jr .  The interpersonal theory of suicide.   Psychol Rev. 2010;117(2):575-600. doi:10.1037/a0018697 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
5.
Reger  MA , Stanley  IH , Joiner  TE .  Suicide mortality and coronavirus disease 2019—a perfect storm?   JAMA Psych. Published online April 10, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.1060.Google Scholar
6.
Reeves  A , Stuckler  D , McKee  M , Gunnell  D , Chang  S-S , Basu  S .  Increase in state suicide rates in the USA during economic recession.   Lancet. 2012;380(9856):1813-1814. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61910-2 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
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