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Psychother Psychosom ; : 1-10, 2021 Dec 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1556865


INTRODUCTION: Anxiety and depression have increased markedly during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a lack of evidence-based strategies to address these mental health needs during the pandemic. OBJECTIVE: We aim to conduct a proof-of-concept trial of the efficacy of a brief group-based psychological intervention delivered via videoconferencing for adults in Australia distressed by the pandemic. METHODS: In this single-blind, parallel, randomised controlled trial, adults who screened positive for COVID-related psychological distress across Australia were randomly allocated to either a 6-session group-based program based on behavioural principles (n = 120) or enhanced usual care (EUC, n = 120). Primary outcome was total score on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HADS) anxiety and depression subscales assessed at baseline, 1 week posttreatment, 2 months (primary outcome time point), and 6 months after treatment, as well as secondary outcome measures of worry, sleep impairment, anhedonia, mood, and COVID-19-related stress. RESULTS: Between May 20, 2020, and October 20, 2020, 240 patients were enrolled into the trial. Relative to EUC, at 2 months participants receiving intervention showed greater reduction on anxiety (mean difference, 1.4 [95% CI, 0.3 to 2.6], p = 0.01; effect size, 0.4 [95% CI, 0.1 to 0.7]) and depression (mean difference, 1.6 [95% CI, 0.4 to 2.8], p = 0.009; effect size, 0.4 [95% CI, 0.2 to 0.7]) scales. These effects were maintained at 6 months. There were also greater reductions of worry, anhedonia, COVID-19-related fears, and contamination fears. CONCLUSIONS: This trial provides initial evidence that brief group-based behavioural intervention delivered via videoconferencing results in moderate reductions in common psychological problems arising during the COVID-19 pandemic. This program may offer a viable and scalable means to mitigate the rising mental health problems during the pandemic.

PLoS Med ; 18(6): e1003621, 2021 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1315878


BACKGROUND: Globally, 235 million people are impacted by humanitarian emergencies worldwide, presenting increased risk of experiencing a mental disorder. Our objective was to test the effectiveness of a brief group psychological treatment delivered by trained facilitators without prior professional mental health training in a disaster-prone setting. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial (cRCT) from November 25, 2018 through September 30, 2019. Participants in both arms were assessed at baseline, midline (7 weeks post-baseline, which was approximately 1 week after treatment in the experimental arm), and endline (20 weeks post-baseline, which was approximately 3 months posttreatment). The intervention was Group Problem Management Plus (PM+), a psychological treatment of 5 weekly sessions, which was compared with enhanced usual care (EUC) consisting of a family psychoeducation meeting with a referral option to primary care providers trained in mental healthcare. The setting was 72 wards (geographic unit of clustering) in eastern Nepal, with 1 PM+ group per ward in the treatment arm. Wards were eligible if they were in disaster-prone regions and residents spoke Nepali. Wards were assigned to study arms based on covariate constrained randomization. Eligible participants were adult women and men 18 years of age and older who met screening criteria for psychological distress and functional impairment. Outcomes were measured at the participant level, with assessors blinded to group assignment. The primary outcome was psychological distress assessed with the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). Secondary outcomes included depression symptoms, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, "heart-mind" problems, social support, somatic symptoms, and functional impairment. The hypothesized mediator was skill use aligned with the treatment's mechanisms of action. A total of 324 participants were enrolled in the control arm (36 wards) and 319 in the Group PM+ arm (36 wards). The overall sample (N = 611) had a median age of 45 years (range 18-91 years), 82% of participants were female, 50% had recently experienced a natural disaster, and 31% had a chronic physical illness. Endline assessments were completed by 302 participants in the control arm (36 wards) and 303 participants in the Group PM+ arm (36 wards). At the midline assessment (immediately after Group PM+ in the experimental arm), mean GHQ-12 total score was 2.7 units lower in Group PM+ compared to control (95% CI: 1.7, 3.7, p < 0.001), with standardized mean difference (SMD) of -0.4 (95% CI: -0.5, -0.2). At 3 months posttreatment (primary endpoint), mean GHQ-12 total score was 1.4 units lower in Group PM+ compared to control (95% CI: 0.3, 2.5, p = 0.014), with SMD of -0.2 (95% CI: -0.4, 0.0). Among the secondary outcomes, Group PM+ was associated with endline with a larger proportion attaining more than 50% reduction in depression symptoms (29.9% of Group PM+ arm versus 17.3% of control arm, risk ratio = 1.7, 95% CI: 1.2, 2.4, p = 0.002). Fewer participants in the Group PM+ arm continued to have "heart-mind" problems at endline (58.8%) compared to the control arm (69.4%), risk ratio = 0.8 (95% CI, 0.7, 1.0, p = 0.042). Group PM+ was not associated with lower PTSD symptoms or functional impairment. Use of psychosocial skills at midline was estimated to explain 31% of the PM+ effect on endline GHQ-12 scores. Adverse events in the control arm included 1 suicide death and 1 reportable incidence of domestic violence; in the Group PM+ arm, there was 1 death due to physical illness. Study limitations include lack of power to evaluate gender-specific effects, lack of long-term outcomes (e.g., 12 months posttreatment), and lack of cost-effectiveness information. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, we found that a 5-session group psychological treatment delivered by nonspecialists modestly reduced psychological distress and depression symptoms in a setting prone to humanitarian emergencies. Benefits were partly explained by the degree of psychosocial skill use in daily life. To improve the treatment benefit, future implementation should focus on approaches to enhance skill use by PM+ participants. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT03747055.

Depression/therapy , Mental Health , Natural Disasters , Problem Solving , Psychotherapy, Brief , Psychotherapy, Group , Relief Work , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/therapy , Stress, Psychological/therapy , Adaptation, Psychological , Adolescent , Adult , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Depression/diagnosis , Depression/etiology , Depression/psychology , Female , Functional Status , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Nepal , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/diagnosis , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/etiology , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/psychology , Stress, Psychological/diagnosis , Stress, Psychological/etiology , Stress, Psychological/psychology , Time Factors , Treatment Outcome , Young Adult