Disaster management of the psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

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53 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a suboptimal response to this threatening global disaster, including the response to the psychological impact. Both the economic hardship and the continuous media coverage of alarming news have exacerbated this effect which also includes increased domestic violence. Aim: To address this important aspect of disaster management and provide recommendations on how to mitigate these effects. Methods: This is a narrative review written by three experts in community medicine, disaster medicine and psychiatry reflecting the interdisciplinary approach in managing disasters. Selected important papers, personal published papers, PUBMED articles and media news related to the disaster management of the psychological effects of COVID-19 pandemic were collected over the last year, critically appraised and used in writing this manuscript. Results: The COVID-19 pandemic causes major emotional distress. Lack of effective treatments and availability of the current vaccines for this virus increases the fear of being infected and infecting others. Negative emotions are common and are related to adjustment but may progress in the long term to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. The COVID-19 pandemic has a major impact on mental health. The most common distress reactions include anxiety, insomnia, perception of insecurity, anger, fear of illness, and risky behaviors. Patients having mental disorders are vulnerable during the pandemic because of (1) somatic vulnerability, (2) cognitive and behavioral vulnerability, (3) psychosocial vulnerability, and (4) disruption to psychiatric care. Psychiatric wards, which are commonly separate from main hospitals, should be included in the disaster management plans. Acute care physicians carry the psychological and ethical impact of difficult triage decisions when ending the support of some patients to save others. A combination of fear and guilt may overcome normal human tolerance levels in vulnerable health workers. The moral injuries can be carried for a long time. Conclusions: Addressing the psychological effects is an essential component of disaster management of infectious pandemics. This should be implemented through the whole spectrum of disaster management including preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
JournalInternational Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Distress
  • Domestic violence
  • Mental stress
  • New Corona virus
  • Psychiatry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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