The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), issued a new advisory: Identification and Management of Mental Health Symptoms and Conditions Associated with Long COVID.
“Long COVID has a range of burdensome physical symptoms, and can take a toll on a person’s mental health. It can be very challenging for a person, whether they are impacted themselves, or they are a caregiver for someone who is affected,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This advisory helps to raise awareness, especially among primary care practitioners and clinicians who are often the ones treating patients with Long COVID.”
Devastating mental health effects
Long COVID can have devastating effects on the mental health of those who experience it, as well as their families, due to a number of factors, including chronic illness (both physical and mental), social isolation, financial insecurity, caregiver burnout, and grief, according to the advisory issued today.
“People with Long COVID need to be properly identified and, as needed, referred for treatment for mental health conditions, in addition to addressing their physical symptoms,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA. “SAMHSA provides a range of services and supports to help people connect directly, including through FindSupport.gov and the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.”
“We know that people living with Long COVID need help today, and providers need help understanding what Long COVID is and how to treat it,” said Admiral Rachel Levine, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health. “This advisory helps bridge that gap for the behavioral health impacts of Long COVID. This is one component of a government-wide response that continues to research Long COVID and provide supports and services to those in need.”
The advisory released today discusses the epidemiology of mental health symptoms and conditions of Long COVID and provides evidence-based resources for their assessment and treatment.
Mental health conditions associated with Long COVID include fatigue, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, psychosis, cognitive impairment, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others.
Social determinants of health can further contribute to the negative impact of COVID-19 and Long COVID for certain groups, including racial and ethnic minority populations, those with limited access to health care, those with pre-existing behavioral health conditions, individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities, and individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+).
While best practices for assessment and treatment of Long COVID emerge, primary care providers can use some evidence-based approaches developed to treat conditions and syndromes with similar symptoms and provide referrals and access to resources specific to Long COVID. This advisory is part of the whole-of-government response to the longer-term impacts of COVID-19, including Long COVID and associated conditions.
This work is in response to the Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services to lead this effort. The National Research Action Plan on Long COVID and the Services and Supports for Longer-term Impacts of COVID-19 reports lay the groundwork to support those impacted by Long COVID.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. To learn how to get support for mental health, drug, and alcohol issues, visit FindSupport.gov.
Read more at US Department of Health and Human Services.