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Preventing Deaths of Despair: Mental Health in COVID-19

October 8, 2020
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Deaths of despair, deaths due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide have been on the rise for the last decade, and in the context of COVID-19, deaths of despair can be viewed as the epidemic within the pandemic. Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.

A preventable surge of avoidable deaths from drugs, alcohol, and suicide is ahead of us if the country does not begin to invest in solutions that can help heal the nation’s isolation, pain, and suffering (Well Being Trust, 2020). Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.

To help combat this impeding crisis, all healthcare systems, at all levels, must engage in the identification and referral to treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. Below are a few recommendations to get you started:

  1. Implement universal screenings for depression and substance use using an evidenced based screening tool, such as the (PHQ9) Patient Health Questionnaire for depression, and the (AUDIT)  Alcohol Use Disorder Identification for alcohol misuse. (Add hyperlinks to Alliant BH webpage for PHQ9 and Audit.)
  2. Create a stigma free environment that promotes mental wellness.
  3. Utilize motivational interviewing skills to help patients identify reasons to change.
  4. Increase the use of  telehealth for greater accessibility to  behavioral health services.
  5. Increase your knowledge of the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and substance use.

Alliant Quality is available to provide assistance in implementing strategies to increase access to behavioral health services and in the implementation of best practices for the management of opioids and other substances.

To learn more, contact Stacy Hull, Behavioral Health Manager at stacy.hull@alliantquality.org.