The Brain Health Initiative (BHI) and Centerstone have partnered to develop a series of educational programs focusing on the neurological and mental health effects of COVID-19 on brain health and are making these resources available to the community.
The BHI has developed a COVID-19 Neurologic and Mental Health Screener to assist providers in determining if a patient is experiencing symptoms that may impact brain health in the present or over the course of time. In addition, BHI created a series of communication educational sessions addressing the impact of COVID-19 on brain health for use by the primary care and mental health professionals throughout the community.
Centerstone commissioned and provided seed funding for the series of educational programs, which were developed by Harvard psychologist and BHI faculty Shelley Carson, PhD, and neuropsychologist and BHI Founder and Executive Director Stephanie Peabody, PsyD. The program addresses Neurological Symptoms and COVID-19, Symptoms of Mental Illness and COVID-19, Improving Brain Health in the COVID-19 Era, and intervention for patients who are COVID-19 positive and COVID-19 negative.
PART ONE: Neurologic Symptoms and COVID-19
Neurologic and central nervous system symptoms have been identified in a substantial percentage of COVID-positive patients and may be present even before the onset of more classic symptoms. Neurologic and CNS complications may also accompany the COVID infection, and neurologic or CNS complications may develop as a result of COVID infection days, weeks, or even months after other signs of the infection are no longer present. Studies estimate between 38% and 82% of all hospitalized COVID-positive patients display neurologic symptoms. The most common neurologic symptoms include anosmia (loss of sense of smell), ageusia (loss of sense of taste), headache, muscle pain, dizziness/incoordination, difficulty concentrating/mental confusion, and difficulty waking or staying awake. In general, but not always, the presence of neurologic symptoms is associated with more severe manifestations of the virus. Neurologic complications occurring due to COVID-19 include stroke (in 2-6% of hospitalized patients) and encephalopathies that may include seizures, delirium, and psychosis. Neurologic complications may persist or even occur after the resolution of classic respiratory viral symptoms. These complications may include post-COVID syndrome and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Several different mechanisms of action may account for the neurologic symptoms associated with COVID-19. Implications of neurologic symptoms for mental health professionals are discussed.
Watch the Video: Length of video: 25 min 24 sec
PART TWO: Symptoms of Mental Illness and COVID-19
Preexisting mental disorders, including anxiety disorders, depression, trauma- and stress-related disorders, substance abuse, and psychotic disorders increase susceptibility to COVID-19. Further, many of these preexisting disorders have been shown to increase the severity of COVID-19 and the incidence of death from the infection, especially in older adults. Incidence of mental disorder is elevated in patients who have been infected with COVID-19, and, in a substantial percentage of cases, mental disorders such as depression may be diagnosed within 90 days following COVID onset. The mental health effects may be lasting, but data is not available past six-month follow-up. Worldwide, mental health issues are elevated due to the pandemic, with an estimate of 34% to 38% of the general population reporting psychological distress. The implications of this massive demand for mental health professionals is discussed.
Watch the Video: Length of video: 28 min 14 sec
PART THREE: Improving Brain Health in the COVID-19 Era
There is a massive need for the skills of mental health professionals owing to the increase in psychological distress worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Professionals can prepare for this need by fortifying their own mental health. This segment emphasizes techniques of brain health protective factors that have been shown through research to be important in protecting against mental disorder, including stress management, nutrition, exercise, sleep, social connection and emotional well-being. Mental health professionals have the opportunity to not only aid in the recovery of the wave of mental illness that is mounting during the pandemic but to help patients build defenses against additional mental illness by promoting the protective factors of brain health.
Watch the Video: Length of video: 27 min 39 sec
Session for Patients with a COVID-Positive Diagnosis
Approximately 25% of patients hospitalized with COVID have underlying mental health issues. While it is difficult to manage a COVID-positive diagnosis along with mental health issues, there are many people who are attempting to do so. Studies of COVID-positive patients have uncovered a number of risk an protective factors that allow for better management of these conditions. Some of the most important factors include managing stress levels, communicating any changes in symptoms or new symptoms to health care or mental health care providers, practicing positive self-care, and avoiding social isolation. This session provides strategies for these factors as well as additional useful strategies for bolstering brain health while in quarantine for COVID.
Watch the Video: Length of video: 19 min 29 sec
Session for Patients who do not have COVID-19
According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in August of 2020, up to 31% of Americans are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression and 26% are experiencing symptoms related to trauma and stress. While it can be difficult to manage mental health issues during the pandemic, there are many people who are attempting to do so. Studies have uncovered a number of risk and protective factors that allow for better management of these conditions. This video presents strategies for reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors that can improve brain health and lead to better outcomes for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. These factors include stress reduction, positive communication with health care and mental health care providers, social connection, positive self-care and increased brain healthy behaviors.
Watch the Video: Length of video: 24 min 36 sec
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