World Mental Health Day 2020

World Mental Health Day 2020 - article image

Ahead of World Mental Health Day (10 October), the European Respiratory Society (ERS) wishes to share a message of solidarity with all in the respiratory community. This year has been particularly challenging for lung disease patients and respiratory professionals due to COVID-19, but the pandemic has increased public awareness of the importance of mental health in addition to physical health.

People with acute and chronic lung conditions, including those in recovery from COVID-19 and other infectious lung diseases, may be more likely to experience problems with mental health alongside their physical symptoms. However, with effective multidisciplinary care that combines medical treatment, guided rehabilitation and psychological support, health systems can better support patients to manage their condition and improve patients’ quality of life.

Organised annually by the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), this year’s campaign calls for the scaling-up of investment in mental health services. ERS supports this call, as improving the provision of mental health services across Europe will help in the delivery of multidisciplinary clinical care.

Professor Anita Simonds, the ERS President, shared a message of support for World Mental Health Day: “Longitudinal observational studies show that mental health has worsened for the whole population during the pandemic, with this disproportionately affecting younger people. For individuals developing severe COVID pneumonia, acute delirium is a feature, and in those recovering, anxiety and depression that are complicated by insomnia are common and may persist in those with ‘long-COVID’. Chronic lung disease patients have been shielding, and 35% of those isolated in this way report their mental health has deteriorated.

“Frontline healthcare workers were also under severe pressure throughout the first coronavirus wave and this is ramping up as cases surge again in Europe, while teams are simultaneously striving to catch up with non-COVID waiting lists. A study of frontline healthcare workers in Italy showed that 50% had symptoms of post-traumatic stress, 25% had depression and 20% anxiety (1). About 10% of healthcare workers involved in the pandemic may develop ‘burnout’.

“Early identification of mental health problems in all these areas, with a supportive approach of counselling focused on self-care and outdoor activities, avoiding unhealthy coping tactics and building social networks, are important management strategies. Access to specialist psychological services should be expanded. Our multidisciplinary respiratory teams must protect the mental wellbeing of our patients, as well as ourselves.”

ERS is encouraged by the European Commission’s acknowledgment of the importance of addressing mental health through the EU4Health Programme.

Activities and ways to get involved

ERS recently launched the Psychologists and Behavioural Scientists Group (09.04), which aims to increase awareness of the importance of psychosocial factors and behaviour change in the care of people with chronic respiratory diseases. ERS members with a variety of professional backgrounds can join the group via myERS.

On 9 October, WHO and partners will host the online advocacy event, ‘The Big Event for Mental Health’, to discuss the ways that the public health community can ensure that mental health care is available to those who need it.

Resources to access and share

Learning resources:

Articles, editorials and research:

European Lung Foundation (ELF) resources:

(1) Rossi, Rodolfo, et al. "Mental Health Outcomes Among Frontline and Second-Line Health Care Workers During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic in Italy." JAMA Network Open 3.5 (2020): e2010185-e2010185.