The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in significant upheaval in psychiatric care. Despite survey data collected from psychiatric patients and broad samples of individuals in single countries, there is little quantitative or qualitative data on changes to psychiatric care from the perspective of mental health providers themselves across developing countries.
To address this gap, we surveyed 27 practicing psychiatrists from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
Respondents observed a marked increase in anxiety in their patients, with increased (though less prominent) symptoms of depression, somatization, and addiction. They reported largescale changes in the structure of psychiatric treatment, chiefly a decline in psychiatric admissions and closing/repurposing of psychiatric beds. Results supported strong “buy in” from clinicians regarding the use of telehealth, though some clinicians perceived a reduction in the ability to connect with, and build alliances with, their patients. Finally, clinicians described an improvement in the image and meaning of psychiatry in society, increased awareness of mental illness, and greater value placed on mental health in the general population.
These changes warrant further empirical study as to their potential long-term ramifications, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic persists and new waves of infection occur periodically throughout the world. The increased psychiatric burden on the population coupled with the apparent salience of mental health and well-being in the public consciousness represents a global opportunity for psychiatry to advocate for further treatment, research, and education.