Phone-based outpatients’ follow-up in mental health centers during the COVID-19 quarantine

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2020 Dec 9:20764020979732. doi: 10.1177/0020764020979732. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: The current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting mental health of global population and, particularly, of people suffering from preexisting mental disorders.

AIMS: This study aims to report on findings from a phone-based clinical follow-up conducted in two large catchment areas in Italy and Paraguay, during the COVID-19 lockdown, in order to provide psychiatric assessments and measure the level of stress related to the quarantine in a large sample of psychiatric outpatients.

METHODS: A clinical phone-based follow-up has been conducted in two large catchment areas in the province of Chieti (Vasto, Italy) and City of Asunción (Paraguay), during the COVID-19 national lockdown. The following rating scales have been employed: Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A); Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D); 18-items Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS-18). The psychological distress related to the outbreak has been assessed employing the Impact of Event Scale – Revised (IES-R).

RESULTS: A total of 110 outpatients were consecutively included and followed among those reporting a stable phase of illness before the COVID-19 lockdown. Findings confirmed a significant increase of general psychopathology, anxiety and fear as well as mild levels of stress related to the quarantine. Also, significant weight gain during the lockdown was detected among patients.

CONCLUSIONS: This study confirmed the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on mental health of people suffering from psychiatric disorders and may also add evidence on the employment of digital psychiatry in the current pandemic.

PMID:33295245 | PMC:PMC7726626 | DOI:10.1177/0020764020979732