What mental health interventions would be most effective in supporting health professionals, patients, and the general public during pandemics like COVID-19?

Bottom Line:

Mental health implementations that take into account cultural differences and empower individuals with social opportunities may be effective during medical pandemics.


Soklaridis, S. et al. Mental health interventions and supports during COVID- 19 and other medical pandemics: A rapid systematic review of the evidence. General Hospital Psychiatry (2020). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2020.08.007

Date Published:

22 August 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of healthcare providers, patients and the general public. Given the stressors caused by shortages in medical supplies and healthcare services, healthcare providers are vulnerable to burnout and psychological distress. Furthermore, literature shows that pandemics increase the likelihood of sleep disorders, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Therefore, there is a need for the provision of mental health support to such vulnerable populations during medical pandemics. This systematic review looks into evidence regarding mental health interventions during medical pandemics. Two studies evaluated the effectiveness of mobile phone-delivered interventions including the use of music therapy for hospital staff that were self-isolating in hotels. The study found that symptoms of tiredness, sadness, fear and worry improved significantly after listening to customized playlists that focused on breathing, energy and serenity. Another study looked into psychosocial support groups that provided art-based programs to children in Liberia during the Ebola pandemic. After five months of the art program, participants were found to have a significant decrease in stress levels. Thus, mental health implementations that provide opportunities to create social networks may be effective in improving the well-being of the general public. Furthermore, the study concluded the importance of taking into account cultural considerations when designing such interventions. Although training requires both time and resources, training non-specialists to deliver mental health interventions may be helpful when the capacity of mental health services are burdened.

Summary by: Eugenia Yeung