COVID-19 a Pandemic, But Don't Panic

Mar 12, 2020

The World Health Organization has officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the first precipitated by the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the first precipitated by the coronavirus. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus1noted in a press briefing he is "deeply concerned by the alarming levels of the coronavirus spread, severity, and inaction, and expects to see the number of cases, deaths, and affected countries climb even higher."

In an apparent effort to assuage fears, he added, "There’s been so much attention on one word. But these words matter much more:
-Prevention
-Preparedness
-Public health
-Political leadership
-People"

He added, "We’re in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable."

While emerging infectious disease outbreaks cause significant fear and uncertainty, psychiatrists can play an important role in supporting the well-being of patients and families, health care personnel, and the general public, according to Joshua C. Morganstein, MD, Chair of the American Psychiatric Association Committee on the Psychiatric Dimensions of Disaster.

"Indeed, the words of Dr. Morganstein are, as usual, valuable for any disaster-like situation," says H. Steven Moffic, MD. "There are words that may not be so valuable for our mental well-being as well. Take the well-known saying by President Roosevelt: 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' After a long economic depression, he provided needed inspiration for our country and infused optimism in a time of pessimism. Optimism is essential for mental well-being in a crisis that needs action. However, given our current crisis and impending economic downtown, we may need to find the right amount of fear, not too little and not too much, in order to avoid passivity or panic."

Dr Moffic adds, "The right amount of fear right now is more liable to push us toward necessary action and creative solutions. We psychiatrists and other mental health care professionals should be masters of words, as we have the challenge to use just the message to convey empathy and to interpret complex problems. If not, our therapeutic alliance and positive impact may be compromised."

More can be found at The Role of Psychiatrists During the Coronavirus Outbreak.

References:

1. World Health Organization. WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 11 March 2020. https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---11-march-2020. Accessed March 12, 2020.

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