A group of Australian psychologists believed the nation faces an oncoming wave of mental health problems caused by the ongoing and wide-ranging effects of long COVID-19.
The Australian Psychological Society (APS) issued the warning in a statement on Tuesday, following recent estimates that up to 500,000 people could be traumatized by the lingering disease within the coming months.
APS president Tamara Cavenett warned that left untreated, many lives could be completely disrupted by the “mental health ticking time bomb” of long COVID-19 and she urged federal and state governments to “do everything we can to diffuse it immediately.”
“With the current wave only worsening, we could see thousands of Australians have their life trajectory thrown off course due to anxiety, depression, PTSD, insomnia, somatization and behavioral and neurological disorders,” Cavenett said.
The APS claims that mental illness cost Australia 200 billion dollars (about 139 billion U.S. dollars) in 2020, a figure that has “undoubtably gotten worse.”
“The cost of inaction continues to climb, and we must limit the impact of long COVID-19 by further integrating mental health support into the care for patients during and after their hospital stay,” Cavenett said.
The APS statement said psychologists should have a critical role in supporting patients following treatment for COVID-19 and in educating other health professionals on potential post-treatment cognitive and emotional symptoms.
Cavenett said treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can significantly help patients suffering traumatic reactions following hospitalization or in managing life with long COVID-19.
Psychologists, particularly clinical neuropsychologists, can also use a range of brain-based techniques to manage the cognitive side effects frequently reported in long COVID-19 cases.
The APS efforts have been supported by leading Australian psychologists such as Professor Andrew Baillie from the University of Sydney.
Baillie told Xinhua on Wednesday that national funding should also be allocated to ensure long COVID-19 patients have access to allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and exercise physiologists during their extended recoveries.
“It is also very important to acknowledge that while long COVID-19 can have mental health consequences, it is not a mental disorder,” he said.
“We need to take great care to avoid the ‘it’s all in your head’ stigma.”