Early Intervention in Psychiatry
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Aim: The COVID-19 quarantine closed many mental health services. Emerging adults with pre-existing mood or anxiety disorders were of concern for worsening symptoms. We sought to demonstrate a method for monitoring mental health status of a group of patients with reduced access to their usual mental health services during quarantine. Methods: A total of 326 patients enrolled in the First-Episode Mood and Anxiety Program in London, Ontario, Canada were invited to participate in online questionnaires regularly. Patients were flagged for high level of risk based on depression scores, suicidal ideation and worsening in anxiety, depression or quality of health. All patients were also asked if they wanted contact with a clinician. Results: One hundred and fourteen (35%) patients completed at least one questionnaire. Thirty were flagged based on scores; 37 (32.5%) participating patients requested help. Participants who were flagged for concerning scores were younger, more likely to be on the wait list for treatment, to have been laid off from work and have more functional impairment. Participants requesting support had higher symptom scores for depression and lower scores on quality of health. Conclusions: The process utilized here identified patients at risk and in need of clinical support in the context of pandemic quarantine. It provided an accessible avenue for invited patients to communicate both symptom status and need for contact. Such a process can provide valuable monitoring during times when the usual communications between patients and health care providers is compromised and clinician time is limited. It is easily implemented.