2022-07-18Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/25870
Who is seeking help for psychological distress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic?
Characterization of risk factors in 1269 participants accessing low-threshold psychological help
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying restrictions are associated with substantial psychological distress. However, it is unclear how this increased strain translates into help-seeking behavior. Here, we aim to characterize those individuals who seek help for COVID-19 related psychological distress, and examine which factors are associated with their levels of distress in order to better characterize vulnerable groups. Methods: We report data from 1269 help-seeking participants subscribing to a stepped-care program targeted at mental health problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sample characteristics were compared to population data, and linear regression analyses were used to examine which risk factors and stressors were associated with current symptom levels. Results: Seeking for help for COVID-19 related psychological distress was characterized by female gender, younger age, and better education compared to the general population. The majority reported mental health problems already before the pandemic. 74.5% of this help-seeking sample also exceeded clinical thresholds for depression, anxiety, or somatization. Higher individual symptom levels were associated with higher overall levels of pandemic stress, younger age, and pre-existing mental health problems, but were buffered by functional emotion regulation strategies. Conclusions: Results suggest a considerable increase in demand for mental-healthcare in the pandemic aftermath. Comparisons with the general population indicate diverging patterns in help-seeking behavior: while some individuals seek help themselves, others should be addressed directly. Individuals that are young, have pre-existing mental health problems and experience a high level of pandemic stress are particularly at-risk for considerable symptom load. Mental-healthcare providers should use these results to prepare for the significant increase in demand during the broader aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as allocate limited resources more effectively.
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This article was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Open Access Publication Fund of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.