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Mental health services for infectious disease outbreaks including COVID-19: A rapid systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Jing Li Yue, Wei Yan, Yan Kun Sun, Kai Yuan, Si Zhen Su, Ying Han, Arun V. Ravindran, Thomas Kosten, Ian Everall, Christopher G. Davey, Edward Bullmore, Norito Kawakami, Corrado Barbui, Graham Thornicroft, Crick Lund, Xiao Lin, Lin Liu, Le Shi, Jie Shi, Mao Sheng Ran & 2 more Yan Ping Bao, Lin Lu

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2498-2513
Number of pages16
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number15
Accepted/In press2020
PublishedNov 2020

King's Authors


The upsurge in the number of people affected by the COVID-19 is likely to lead to increased rates of emotional trauma and mental illnesses. This article systematically reviewed the available data on the benefits of interventions to reduce adverse mental health sequelae of infectious disease outbreaks, and to offer guidance for mental health service responses to infectious disease pandemic. PubMed, Web of Science, Embase, PsycINFO, WHO Global Research Database on infectious disease, and the preprint server medRxiv were searched. Of 4278 reports identified, 32 were included in this review. Most articles of psychological interventions were implemented to address the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, followed by Ebola, SARS, and MERS for multiple vulnerable populations. Increasing mental health literacy of the public is vital to prevent the mental health crisis under the COVID-19 pandemic. Group-based cognitive behavioral therapy, psychological first aid, community-based psychosocial arts program, and other culturally adapted interventions were reported as being effective against the mental health impacts of COVID-19, Ebola, and SARS. Culturally-adapted, cost-effective, and accessible strategies integrated into the public health emergency response and established medical systems at the local and national levels are likely to be an effective option to enhance mental health response capacity for the current and for future infectious disease outbreaks. Tele-mental healthcare services were key central components of stepped care for both infectious disease outbreak management and routine support; however, the usefulness and limitations of remote health delivery should also be recognized.

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