Loneliness Awareness Week (14-18 June)

This year, Loneliness Awareness Week will take place from 14 to 18 June.

Hosted by the Marmalade Trust, it is a campaign that raises awareness of loneliness and gets people talking about it.

Find out more here and how you can get involved.

In 2020 the campaign reached around 271.5 million people – all without leaving our homes. The campaign saw almost 20,000 charities, organisations, companies and individuals get involved online.

Book: Together Apart – The Psychology of COVID-19

Book Title:

Together Apart – The Psychology of COVID-19.

Author(s): Jolanda Jetten, Stephen D. Reicher, S. Alexander Haslam, and Tegan Cruwys.

Year: 2020.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Type(s): Paperback and Kindle.

Synopsis:

Written by leading social psychologists with expertise in leadership, health and emergency behaviour – who have also played an important role in advising governments on COVID-19 – this book provides a broad but integrated analysis of the psychology of COVID-19

It explores the response to COVID-19 through the lens of social identity theory, drawing from insights provided by four decades of research. Starting from the premise that an effective response to the pandemic depends upon people coming together and supporting each other as members of a common community, the book helps us to understand emerging processes related to social (dis)connectedness, collective behaviour and the societal effects of COVID-19. In this it shows how psychological theory can help us better understand, and respond to, the events shaping the world in 2020.

Considering key topics such as:

  • Leadership.
  • Communication.
  • Risk perception.
  • Social isolation.
  • Mental health.
  • Inequality.
  • Misinformation.
  • Prejudice and racism.
  • Behaviour change.
  • Social Disorder.

This book offers the foundation on which future analysis, intervention and policy can be built.

On This Day … 08 August

  • Happiness Happens Day,

What is Happiness Happens Day?

In 1999 the Society declared 08 August as the “Admit You’re Happy Day”, now known as the “Happiness Happens Day”.

The idea was inspired by the event that happened the previous year on the same date- the first member joined the Society.

In 1998 the Society asked the governors in all 50 states for a proclamation, with nineteen of them sending one.

What is the Secret Society of Happy People?

Secret Society of Happy People (SOHP) is an organisation that celebrates the expression of happiness.

Founded in August 1998, the society encourages thousands of members from all around the globe to recognise their happy moments and think about happiness in their daily life.

Purpose of SOHP?

The Secret Society of Happy People supports people who want to share their happiness despite the ones who don’t want to hear happy news.

Their mottos include “Happiness Happens” and “Don’t Even Think of Raining on My Parade”.

The main purpose of the Society is to stimulate people’s right to express their happiness “as loud as they want”.

Other Events

  • Happiness Happens Month:
    • Celebration of happiness was expanded in 2000, and thanks to the support of not-so-secretly-happy members from around the world, the Society declared August as Happiness Happens Month.
    • The purpose of Happiness Happens Day and Month is to share happiness and encourage people to talk and think about happiness.
  • HappyThon:
    • Every year, the Society organises an online social media event known as HappyThon, on Happiness Happens Day.
    • The aim of this event is to send inspirational messages via social networks, emails or texts, share happy moments, philosophy, quotes, etc.
    • HappyThon is the first online social media event that promotes happiness around the world.
  • Since 1998 the Society have been organising voting and announcing the Happiest Events and Moments of the Year.
  • Before the end of the century, a vote for 100 of the Happiest Events, Inventions and Social Changes of the Century was organised.
  • In the third week of January the Society hosted Hunt for Happiness Week.
  • They asked the current governors for a proclamation, with seven of them providing one.

Psychological Distress & Loneliness

In a survey of almost 1,500 US adults, McGinty and colleagues (2020) studied levels of psychological distress using the Kessler scale and levels of loneliness.

They compared the distress levels with national data from 2018. In 2018, the prevalence of serious psychological distress was 3.9%. In April 2020 it was 13.6%.

The authors note a worrying implication of these findings – that, since the Kessler scale is predictive of serious mental illness, the distress during the pandemic could transfer to longer term psychiatric disorders.

This is not outside the realms of possibility, especially since the social and economic impact of the pandemic is expected to be felt for years to come.

The authors should be commended both for their methodology and for their upfront discussion of its limitations – namely the potential for sampling bias.

People might have been more likely to respond to such a survey in April 2020 compared with 2018; therefore, the 2020 figures could be an overestimate.

Reference

McGinty, E.E., Presskreischer, R., Han, H. & Barry, C.L. (2020) Psychological Distress and Loneliness Reported by US Adults in 2018 and April 2020. JAMA. 324(1), pp.93-94. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.9740.

What is the Role of Telehealth in Reducing the Mental Health Burden from COVID-19?

Research Paper Title

The Role of Telehealth in Reducing the Mental Health Burden from COVID-19.

Background

The psychological impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic must be recognized alongside the physical symptoms for all those affected. Telehealth, or more specifically telemental health services, are practically feasible and appropriate for the support of patients, family members, and health service providers during this pandemic. As of March 18, 2020, there were >198,000 COVID-19 infections recorded globally, and 7,900 deaths. Psychological symptoms relating to COVID-19 have already been observed on a population level including anxiety-driven panic buying and paranoia about attending community events. Students, workers, and tourists who have been prevented from accessing their training institutions, workplaces, homes, respectively, are expected to have developed psychological symptoms due to stress and reduced autonomy and concerns about income, job, security, and so on. The Chinese, Singaporean, and Australian governments have highlighted the psychological side effects of COVID-19, and have voiced concerns regarding the long-term impacts of isolation and that the fear and panic in the community could cause more harm than COVID-19.

In the absence of a medical cure for COVID-19, the global response is a simple public health strategy of isolation for those infected or at risk, reduced social contact to slow the spread of the virus, and simple hygiene such as hand washing to reduce the risk of infection. While the primary intervention of isolation may well achieve its goals, it leads to reduced access to support from family and friends, and degrades normal social support systems and causes loneliness, and is a risk for worsening anxiety and depressive symptoms. If left untreated, these psychological symptoms may have long-term health effects on patients and require treatment adding to the cost burden of managing the illness. Clinical and nonclinical staff are also at risk of psychological distress as they are expected to work longer hours with a high risk of exposure to the virus. This may also lead to stress, anxiety, burnout, depressive symptoms, and the need for sick or stress leave, which would have a negative impact on the capacity of the health system to provide services during the crisis.

Treatment protocols for people with COVID-19 should address both the physiological and psychological needs of the patients and health service providers. Providing psychological treatment and support may reduce the burden of comorbid mental health conditions and ensure the well-being of those affected. Our challenge is to provide mental health services in the context of patient isolation, which highlights the role of telehealth (through videoconference, e-mail, telephone, or smartphone apps). The provision of mental health support (especially through telehealth) will likely help patients maintain psychological well-being and cope with acute and post-acute health requirements more favourably.

Examples of and evidence to support the effectiveness of telemental health are fairly diverse, especially in the context of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Videoconferencing, online forums, smartphone apps, text-messaging, and e-mails have been shown to be useful communication methods for the delivery of mental health services.

China is actively providing various telemental health services during the outbreak of COVID-19. These services are from government and academic agencies and include counseling, supervision, training, as well as psychoeducation through online platforms (e.g., hotline, WeChat, and Tencent QQ). Telemental health services have been prioritised for people at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19, including clinicians on the frontline, patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and their families, policemen, and security guards. Early reports also showed how people in isolation actively sought online support to address mental health needs, which demonstrated both a population interest and acceptance of this medium.

Additional telehealth services have been previously funded by the Australian Government (Better Access Initiative programme), to address mental health needs of rural and remote patients during emergency situations, such as long-term drought and bushfires. In response to COVID-19, the Australian Government has responded with additional funded services through the Medicare Benefits Schedule, enabling a greater range of telehealth services to be delivered, including telehealth consultations with general practitioners and specialists. However, the expanded telehealth programme is restricted to special needs groups and the wider population does not have access to the programme. A major benefit of expanding telehealth, including mental health, with no restrictions would reduce person-to-person contact between health service providers and COVID-19 and reduce the risk of exposure of non-infected but susceptible patients in waiting room areas. To date, most of the Australian Government’s focus has been on managing medical needs of people during the epidemic, rather than providing resources to meet short- and long-term mental health implications. An expansion of access to telemental health support services with a focused public education campaign to promote these services would begin to address this need.

Communication of all health needs is important when patients are having to be isolated. The researchers support the use of telehealth as a valuable way of supporting both physical and psychosocial needs of all patients irrespective of geographical location. Simple communication methods such as e-mail and text messaging should be used more extensively to share information about symptoms of burnout, depression, anxiety, and PTSD during COVID-19, to offer cognitive and/or relaxation skills to deal with minor symptoms, and to encourage access to online self-help programmes. For people with COVID-19, telehealth can be used to monitor symptoms and also to provide support when needed.

While there is growing awareness of mortality rates associated with COVID-19, we should also be cognisant of the impact on mental health – both on a short- and a long-term basis. Telemental health services are perfectly suited to this pandemic situation – giving people in remote locations access to important services without increasing risk of infection.

Reference

Zhou, X., Snoswell,, C.L., Harding, L.E., Bambling, M., Edirippulige, S., Bai, X. & Smith, A.C. (2020) The Role of Telehealth in Reducing the Mental Health Burden from COVID-19. Telemedicine and e-Health. 26(4). https://doi.org/10.1089/tmj.2020.0068.

Mental Health in Japan: The Rise of Recluses

Did you know that the pressures from work and society are causing more people in Japan to shun the outside world.

In the attached article by The Economist we can read about “Mika Shibata’s youngest son”, aged 26, who has not emerged from his bedroom for a year! (The Economist, 2019, p.49).

In an article by Andrew McKirdy, for the JapanTimes.co.jp, he states that a Government survey suggested that 613,000 people, between the ages of 40 and 64, are believed to be hikikomori.

This is up from the estimated 541,000 people aged between 15 and 39 that a 2015 Cabinet Office survey found to be hikikomori.

References

McKirdy, A. (2019) The prison inside: Japan’s hikikomori lack relationships, not physical spaces. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2019/06/01/lifestyle/prison-inside-japans-hikikomori-lack-relationships-not-physical-spaces/#.Xil8ymieSUk. [Accessed: 23 January, 2020].

The Economist. (2019) Mental Health in Japan: The Rise of Recluses. The Economist. 30 November 2019.