Mental health and long COVID: Experiences, interventions, and resilience building
Background. While COVID‑19 infection generally results in a mild to moderate short-term illness, some people experience symptoms for months after infection; this is known as ‘long COVID.’ It is important to understand long COVID experiences, including mental health impacts, and to identify promising psychosocial interventions for this population. Objectives. 1) Understand what is known about psychosocial interventions for long COVID; 2) Understand how patients are experiencing long COVID, particularly impacts on their mental health; 3) explore whether a psychosocial intervention, the Optimal Health Program, might be appropriate to support self-management, mental health and resiliency for Canadians with long COVID. Method. We will conduct a systematic review to understand what the scientific literature says about psychosocial interventions for long COVID, and we will update the review one year later. We will also conduct focus groups with 1) individuals with long COVID and associated mental health challenges, including young adults, mid-age adults, and older adults, and 2) physicians who treat such patients. Focus groups will examine how participants have experienced long COVID, how it has impacted self-care and self-management activities that support positive mental health and resiliency, barriers to self-care, impacts on substance use, and novel skills or resilience factors that have emerged. We will further facilitate discussion on the Optimal Health Program as a possibly promising intervention for self-management, positive mental health and resilience in long COVID. We will engage patient partners in all phases of the project. Impact. This study will help understand the experiences and needs of Canadians with long COVID and associated mental health challenges and identify interventions. It will thereby identify concrete solutions to helping vulnerable Canadians recover from the long-term impacts of COVID‑19 infection.