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Mental health impact of admission to the intensive care unit for COVID-19

02 November 2020
Volume 25 · Issue 11


The pandemic caused by Covid-19 has long term ramifications for many, especially those patients who have experienced an intensive care unit (ICU) admission including ventilation and sedation. This paper will explore aspects of care delivery in the ICU regarding the current pandemic and the impact of such on the mental health of some of these patients. Post discharge, patients will be returning to a very different community incorporating social distancing, and in some cases, social isolation and/or shielding. Many may experience a multitude of physical and mental health complications which can ultimately impact upon each other, therefore a bio-psycho-pharmaco-social approach to discharge, case management, risk assessment and positive behavioural support planning is recommended.

The novel virus SARS-CoV-2, as it was initially identified, was believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, and the Chinese authorities reported it to the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2019 (Scripps Research Institute, 2020). Its presence was detected after a cluster of patients presented with pneumonia. The disease caused by this organism was officially designated COVID-19 by the WHO on 11 February 2020. According to Guarner (2020), SARS-CoV-2 has infected more people than both its predecessors-SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. The most recent data from the WHO (2020) show that there have been 28 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide (WHO, 2020), and it can be inferred that this disease will inevitable affect all humanity in some form.

In the first two decades of the 21st century alone, the world has witnessed three coronaviruses emerge and cause outbreaks. The first was severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which originated in Guangdong, China, followed in 2014 by the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), originating in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Oboho et al, 2015). Guarner (2020) reported that SARS was primarily transmitted person to person through droplets, while symptoms of MERS-CoV were nonspecific, although many who contracted it experienced severe acute respiratory distress.

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