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Coronaphobia.org: Wealth of mental health resources for public & health-care professionals

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: July 10, 2020 3:00 p.m.

The University of Regina’s Dr. Gordon Asmundson, co-director of the Psychology of Pandemics Network.
The University of Regina’s Dr. Gordon Asmundson, co-director of the Psychology of Pandemics Network. Photo: U of R Photography

With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting places as far afield as South Korea, Iran, and Melbourne, Australia - the launch of www.coronaphobia.org by the Psychology of Pandemics (PsyPan) Network could not be more timely.

“We’ve had at least a dozen requests to translate the COVID Stress Scales into other languages so that more and more health-care professionals and members of the public can avail themselves of this handy and helpful self-assessment tool,” says Dr. Gordon Asmundson, University of Regina psychology professor, registered doctoral psychologist, and co-director, along with Dr. Steven Taylor from the University of British Columbia, of the PsyPan Network.

Along with COVID Stress Scales and PHQ-4 self-assessment tools, the PsyPan Network site features a growing set of resources that make up an evidence-based knowledge hub. The site was developed to facilitate an understanding of the role that psychological factors play in pandemics in order to meet the information needs of health-care scientists and professionals, decision-makers, and the public.

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Screen capture of www.coronaphobia.org

Credit: University Advancement & Communications


“It’s not unusual for people to feel anxiety and stress related to the pandemic – in fact, it’s quite a natural response to a global event that has changes the way all of us go about our daily lives,” says Asmundson. “Coronaphobia.org is a place where clinicians and citizens alike can access tools to sort out just where on the spectrum people’s anxieties are falling.”

Too much pandemic-related anxiety and stress can render a person immobilized and too little COVID-19 related stress can manifest itself in ways that can cause a person to think that COVID-19 poses no threat at all – potentially putting them and others in harm’s way.

Visitors to the website can take a confidential self-assessment to see where they score in terms of COVID-related distress or depression and anxiety when compared to the general population. Once they complete the self-assessment, they can see where they score on an interactive COVID Stress Scale and get tailored recommendations for how to best look after their mental health based on their results. The site also has a list of available mental health resources for the public and for professionals.

“In the not-too-distant future, in addition to providing information about self-help resources, we are looking to include tele-medicine approaches on the site – for example, providing non-guided online therapy for those experiencing significant COVID-19 related stress – ensuring that help is available no matter where you live or work geographically,” says Asmundson.

Self-help for those on the higher end of the COVID-19 Stress Scales – those with not only a fear of contagion, but also experiencing xenophobia, trauma-induced symptoms such as disrupted sleep and obsessive 24/7 checking of the news – could come in the form of a self-guided six-week online course and access to a refined reassessment.

“Given the ongoing reality of this pandemic, we anticipate considerable and continuing stress in some segments of the population,” says Asmundson. “Our research regarding the mental health impacts of COVID-19 and strategies for treatment are still a work in progress; but, the launch of our website provides one more tool for disseminating information and strategies to help the public and professionals manage mental health challenges related to or exacerbated by COVID-19.”

In March, Dr. Asmundson, who also serves as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders and Clinical Psychology Review, was awarded $400,000 in funding as part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Canadian 2019 Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity. The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation also provided funding to support development of the interactive website. The website is part of the third in a series of studies in the project. In Study One and Study Two, Dr. Asmundson and Dr. Taylor developed, validated, and published the COVID Stress Scales. In addition, the research team has published a paper that identifies COVID Stress Syndrome, describing it as a state of increased mental health distress occurring in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. This paper, along with the COVID Stress Scales, are just two of the helpful resources included on the site.

“It is gratifying to know that our pandemic-related research is being mobilized in this way, putting much-needed resources into the hands of those that need it most no matter where they are located,” says Asmundson. “The fact that the platform can be updated as new data and resources become available will keep the site relevant – helping more people for a long time to come.” 

Related 

University of Regina psychologist receives federal funding for COVID-19 research 

Addressing the anxiety and fear a pandemic can raise