Does COVID-19 Fear, Mental Health, and Substance Misuse Conditions among University Social Work Students Ignore Nationality?

Research Paper Title

COVID-19 Fear, Mental Health, and Substance Misuse Conditions Among University Social Work Students in Israel and Russia.

Background

In December 2019, cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology but with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and other serious complications were reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. One month later, a novel coronavirus was identified by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from the throat swab sample of a patient and was subsequently named “COVID-19” by the World Health Organisation (WHO) (Nanshan et al. 2020). At the end of June 2020, approximately 500,000 deaths worldwide have been linked to COVID-19 (Johns Hopkins University of Medicine 2020).

Following many cases reported by Chinese authorities, the WHO declared the new coronavirus pneumonia epidemic a public health emergency of international concern. Among the early virus characteristics reported were strong human-to-human transmission and fast transmission speed, mainly spread through respiratory droplets and contact (Nanshan et al. 2020). In response, Chinese authorities moved to a strategy of regional blockade aimed to stop the spread of the epidemic (Chen et al. 2020) as well as quarantine. “Quarantine” is one of the oldest and most effective tools of controlling communicable disease outbreaks. It means the restriction of movement among people presumed to have been exposed to a contagious disease but are not ill, either because they did not become infected or because they are still in the incubation period. The second tool that is widely used to prevent the spread of the pandemic is “social distancing.” It is designed to reduce interactions between people in a community where individuals may be infectious but have not yet been identified, and hence not yet isolated (Burdorf et al. 2020).

Once countries dealing with COVID-19 implemented quarantine and social distancing, the need for social workers and other health care professionals greatly increased due to mental health problems experienced by the general public. Studies have found that widespread outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, are associated with psychological distress and mental illness (Bao et al. 2020). Such conditions include stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, anger, fear, stigma (Lin 2020; Pakpour and Griffiths 2020; Torales et al. 2020), and substance misuse (Baillie et al. 2010) on individual, family, community, and national levels (Harper et al. 2020; Kang et al. 2020). Older adults, especially with chronic health conditions, have been identified as extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. However, those dealing with the infection, such as medical and allied health personnel including those affiliated with social work, have received considerable attention for their “front line” efforts combating this disaster.

Israel and Russia pursue a similar policy to combat the COVID-19: strict quarantine or self-isolation, the abolition of all events with a large number of people, the closure of schools and universities, the cessation of aviation and railway travel and closed borders, the mandatory use of masks, etc. At the end of June 2020, there were 22,800 confirmed cases and 314 deaths in Israel and in Russia, 626,779 cases and 8958 deaths (JHUM 2020). Based on the dearth of information about student mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic (Grubic et al. 2020), The researchers hypothesized fear, mental health, and substance misuse among university students are similar regardless of nationality. For this purpose, social work students from Israel and Russia were studied.

Reference

Yehudai, M., Bendar, S., Gritsenko, V., Konstantinov, V., Reznik, A. & Isralowitz, R. (2020) COVID-19 Fear, Mental Health, and Substance Misuse Conditions Among University Social Work Students in Israel and Russia. International Journal of Mental Health Addiction. 1–8.
doi: 10.1007/s11469-020-00360-7 [Epub ahead of print].

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