PUCRS researcher at WHO commission on mental health and Covid-19

Dr. Christian Kristensen served as consultant in report on pandemic impacts on mental health

09/05/2022 - 14h18

Photo: Mariana Haupenthal

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the mental health and wellness of people around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) has worked with several international partners to develop and disseminate solutions to mitigate these impacts. These initiatives include the Mental Health and Covid-19: Early evidence of the pandemic’s impact, a report that featured the School of Health and Life Sciences professor, Dr. Christian Haag Kristensen.

He was the only Latin American member of the steering committee, responsible for analyzing the main results and reviewing the general scope of the report. The publication contains an overview of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health services and the prevalence of mental health symptoms, mental disorders and suicidal behavior disorders. It also presents notes on the effectiveness of psychological interventions adapted to the pandemic scenario to prevent or reduce these problems and maintain access to services.

The impacts of the pandemic on mental health

The WHO report points out that, in the first year of the pandemic, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25%. The main reasons for the increase in stress were caused by social isolation resulting from the pandemic, restrictions on work, as people were less involved in their communities.

Loneliness, fear of infection, grief and financial worries were also cited as factors that lead to anxiety and depression. Among healthcare professionals, exhaustion has been a major trigger for suicidal thinking, according to the report.

Other important data presented in the report include the serious interruptions in mental health services, neurological and substance abuse being some of the most frequent as reported by WHO Member States.

In this context, with difficult access to face-to-face care, many people sought online support, which signaled the urgent need to provide reliable and effective easily accessible digital tools. However, research shows that developing and deploying digital interventions is still a major challenge in resource-constrained countries and environments.

According to the report, this situation improved somewhat towards the end of 2021, but today many people face challenges in getting care and support they need for pre-existing and newly developed mental health conditions.

Dr. Kristensen’s role

Dr. Christian Kristensen, professor and researcher at the Graduate Program in Psychology, dedicates his academic career to the studies on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy and Neuropsychology, and is a reference in the field. Kristensen currently coordinates the Research Group into Cognition, Emotion and Behavior and the Center for Studies and Research in Trauma and Stress (NEPTE-PUCRS). He also a member of the Board of Directors of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS).

He was invited to contribute to the WHO report by Dutch researchers from the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Research and Dissemination of Psychological Interventions (Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands) for his experience and scientific production in the area of trauma and traumatic stress. The Center for Studies and Research in Trauma and Stress (NEPTE-PUCRS) is one of the most productive centers in Latin America in research and intervention in traumatic stress and PUCRS was the only invited institution on the continent.

Some of the studies he develops at PUCRS are: Assessment of the Impact of Stress During and After the Covid-19 Pandemic on Mental Health and Risk Assessment; the study in collaboration with other international centers, such as the Global Psychotrauma Screening and Resilience Assessment, and the research project TelePSI, funded by the Ministry of Health, in the form of telepsychotherapy for health professionals working to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. With that, Kristensen concludes that this opportunity, although individual, is a recognition of the excellence of the different research groups embraced by NEPTE-PUCRS

Leia Mais Veja todas