A sizeable portion of Covid-19 patients have been diagnosed with mental disorders months after testing positive for the coronavirus, a large study of health records has found.
In a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, researchers from the University of Oxford have analyzed electronic medical record of 69 million people living in the US. It included 62,354 individuals who were diagnosed with Covid-19 between January 20 and August 1.
The scientists found that 20 percent of those infected with the coronavirus were diagnosed for the first time with some sort of mental illness within 90 days after testing positive for Covid-19. The main conditions recorded were different anxiety disorders, including adjustment disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic disorder, as well as insomnia and dementia.
“People have been worried that COVID-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings… show this to be likely,” Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry and one of the authors of the study, told Reuters.
Harrison advised health services to be ready to provide psychiatric care, adding that the study’s results were “likely to be underestimates” of the number of psychiatric patients.
In August, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the ongoing pandemic has been “associated with mental health challenges” related to the deaths caused by Covid-19, as well as by attempts to control the spread of the disease, such as social distancing rules and lockdowns. The CDC said that symptoms of anxiety and depression “increased considerably” across the US from April to June as compared to the same period last year.
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When the moment came at the arrivals gate, there was just a silent hug.
“I just didn’t know when I was going to see him again,” Desiree said.
Class action lawsuit launches
Born with a severe form of haemophilia, Anthony was given a blood transfusion as a teen that was later revealed to be infected with Hepatitis C and B.
The error proved catastrophic for him and he then endured years of treatments for both infections, including receiving chemotherapy.
In March this year, Anthony travelled with his wife to the UK to attend a hearing brought about a class action lawsuit made up of more than 1,000 people who were injected with infected blood.
Many of them were haemophiliacs who contracted HIV and strains of hepatitis as a result of the transfusions.
When the couple parted ways so that Desiree could return home to her children and her job, Anthony’s health was under control.
But it began to deteriorate as the number of flights home also rapidly disappeared due to the escalating pandemic.
He soon realised he was stuck overseas.
Gravely ill in isolation
As the pandemic continued to worsen, Anthony began suffering from hepatitis flare-ups and was told he would have to quarantine amid the growing crisis.
He spent five months isolated from the world, only speaking to others via phone or video call.
Social services were unable to visit often, and with limited mobility he struggled to care for himself.
He became gravely ill, but doctors resisted bringing him to hospitals riddled with coronavirus patients.
“I was in an Airbnb and the hospital preferred me to stay in that Airbnb and really, to starve and dehydrate, because that was less risky than the hospital,” he said.
When he finally was brought in, he was not only very sick with hepatitis and the effects of haemophilia, but also severely malnourished.
Repatriation flight offers first hope in months
After weeks regaining his strength in two different hospitals, Anthony was cleared to travel, but flights to Australia remained scarce.
He booked one for mid-November, paying $3,500 for the one-way trip, and hoped it would not be cancelled.
But unexpectedly, in mid-October an email came through from the Australian Government.
He had been given a seat on a repatriation flight scheduled to arrive in Darwin on October 23.
There was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Desiree, at home in Australia, said he sounded incredulous on the phone when he had finally made his way through immigration and was handed his boarding pass.
“He was in shock,” she said.
Anthony described the flight as one full of excited people anxious to return home, but aware of the continuing risk of coronavirus infection.
“I was surrounded by about four families with babies, and to be honest I was worried about the babies and I was just trying to breathe down,” he said.
“We were all wearing masks and any movements I did I tried to make them as minimal as possible.
Relieved his flight had arrived without a hiccup, Desiree said she remained on edge, knowing Anthony would have to remain in quarantine for another two weeks.
It was the last chapter in what has been a tortuous ordeal.
“Along the way it’s been not so much the getting him home that’s been the biggest issue for me, it’s trying to cope with the fact that he is very vulnerable to COVID and that he could understandably get it very easily if he was in a hospital,” she said.
“Lots of people have said, ‘he could have come home earlier’, but obviously in his circumstances he absolutely could not, he wasn’t well enough to fly.
Anthony spent 14 days in quarantine at the Howard Springs facility in Darwin before leaving for Canberra.
He praised the treatment he received there.
“It’s like a tiny little holiday camp,” he said.
“It’s an incredible achievement and they really couldn’t do more for people.”
When they finally met at Canberra Airport, it was an elated and emotional homecoming, one they had often questioned would come at all.
Anthony said he was reminded of the first time he saw his wife.
“The very first time I saw Desiree, I was gone,” he said.
Their first plan was to take a drive up to Mount Ainslie to take in the view and enjoy a picnic.
A J&J spokesman on Tuesday said the study remains on pause as the company continues its review of medical information before deciding to restart the trial. J&J noted that its “study pause” was voluntary, in contrast to AstraZeneca’s “regulatory hold,” which is imposed by health authorities.
Responding to a request about the AstraZeneca trial, British regulators shared with Reuters a draft of a form letter to UK vaccine trial participants, dated Oct. 14 and signed by the Oxford Covid-19 Vaccine Team. It says the US FDA had “completed their analysis” and said vaccination in the United States would resume shortly.
FDA “has come to the same conclusion as the other drug regulators including the MHRA,” the letter states.
The Health Research Authority, which helps oversee UK medical research, said in an email to Reuters that it vetted the communication to make sure it was suitable to ensure informed consent among study volunteers. It could not confirm that the letter had been issued.
An AstraZeneca spokeswoman said the communication is not from the company and it “cannot verify the content”, referring to the draft letter to study participants.
“We also cannot comment on a pending FDA decision,” she said. The Oxford study team has not responded to requests for comment.
Geelong captain Joel Selwood has played down concerns over star forward Tom Hawkins, saying he’ll be “absolutely fine” to take part in what could be his third premiership-winning side.
Hawkins has been forced to isolate from his teammates just four days out from the grand final, after the Coleman Medallist reported experiencing a sore throat.
Speaking on AFL 360, Selwood said there was no cause for alarm, regardless of how little training he may do this week.
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Selwood not worried about Tom
“This happens regularly – if a player is under the weather at all, especially this year, they stay away from the group,” he said.
“This is nothing new to us, it’s just that it’s such a big week. Tom will have to stay away for a little while but we’ll be seeing him tomorrow.”
Asked if it was a certainty Hawkins would train with the group on Wednesday, the club’s main session, the 32-year-old admitted even if he didn’t, he would be fine for Saturday’s heavyweight battle with Richmond.
“We hope so (he’ll train). If he’s not he’s not, we’re still four days away from the game,” he said.
“We’ll get Tommy in the nick he needs to be for the game and he’ll be absolutely fine.”
Although having three flags as a player by the age of 23, Selwood is yet to captain a premiership side, which he could achieve with victory on Saturday.
Dusty’s place in Tiger greats
Speaking on the possibility, Selwood said he never took for granted the chance to lead his side out onto the ground, regardless of the occasion.
“It means everything to me to lead out (the team) every single weekend,” he said.
“It‘s been a special week so far, even hearing from a lot of great teammates from an era that probably dragged me on a little bit.
“(It’s been good) just to remind myself what the taste was like when we got it.”
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Here’s where we are: Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States and the most powerful person on the planet, is sick with COVID-19. We do not know with any confidence how ill he truly is; both his physician and White House officials have been unclear and evasive. Journalists’ fascination with Trump’s health may seem morbid, but the presidency confers enormous power—and the example he sets shapes people’s response to the pandemic.
The official line is that Trump is improving and is set to be released Monday evening. But he’s receiving a battery of medicinal firepower, some of it experimental, that suggests either he’s sicker than we’re being led to believe, or that his doctors are being unusually aggressive with his treatment—a move that could be risky, or could be exactly the right strategy. Either way, this virus is vicious, and a person who seems to be doing well in their battle against it one hour can easily take a turn the next.
If President Trump’s health remains a mystery, his attitude and behavior towards the virus do not.
Soon after posting a video on Sunday claiming that he “gets it,” Trump—still potentially contagious—shortly left the hospital for a joyride to greet supporters gathered nearby. In doing so, he put the members of his Secret Service detail at serious risk of contracting the virus themselves, despite their precautions, like wearing masks while in the car. “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” said Dr. James P. Phillips, the chief of disaster and operational medicine at George Washington University Hospital and an attending physician at Walter Reed, in a tweet. “They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”
Trump followed up on Monday afternoon with a tweet saying he plans to leave Walter Reed for the White House later that evening. Whether it’s wise for the President to be discharged at this point in his treatment is one thing. But his accompanying messaging is a more distressing matter.
“Don’t be afraid of COVID,” Trump said, undercutting public health experts, medical science, and common sense evidence of the past six months. “Don’t let it dominate your life.” He went on to promote recently-developed “really great drugs and knowledge.” While it’s true that doctors have gotten better at treating COVID-19, it’s still killing hundreds of Americans every day. Come winter, that terrible number may climb once again—and most Americans cannot access the level of care and attention Trump received at Walter Reed, one of the nation’s foremost hospitals.
Monday’s tweet is just the latest example of Trump spreading coronavirus disinformation. A recent Cornell University study found that Trump is the single largest driver of COVID-19 falsehoods, which, coming from the President, can have major and disastrous results. Throughout the pandemic, Republicans, no doubt following Trump’s lead, have been less willing to wear masks, for instance, despite evidence that they help curb spread.
It’s too early to say how COVID-19 will play out for Trump either medically or politically. The virus will work its course over the next few days; voters have a few more weeks. What is increasingly clear, however, is that Trump’s personal brush with a deadly pathogen that has killed nearly 210,000 Americans and infected more than 7.4 million will not change his behavior for the better in any substantial way. As he has done since the beginning, he will continue to deny the severity of the disease despite the human loss it has inflicted across the U.S. and the world. He will instill false confidence in unproven treatments. And he will encourage his followers to ignore experts’ guidance, undoubtedly leading to further illness, suffering and death.
The Coronavirus Brief. Everything you need to know about the global spread of COVID-19
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AsianScientist (Oct. 2, 2020) – A machine learning algorithm has grasped how to identify mental health conditions such as autism and schizophrenia from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans. These findings, by researchers at the University of Tokyo, Japan, have been published in Translational Psychiatry.
While most of modern medicine has physical tests or objective techniques to define much of what ails us, there is currently no blood or genetic test that can definitively diagnose a mental illness, and certainly none to distinguish between different psychiatric disorders with similar symptoms.
“Psychiatrists, including me, often talk about symptoms and behaviors with patients and their teachers, friends and parents. We only meet patients in the hospital or clinic, not out in their daily lives. We have to make medical conclusions using subjective, secondhand information,” explained Shinsuke Koike, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo and a senior author of the study. “Frankly, we need objective measures.”
Using the brain scans of 206 participants—including patients already diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia, individuals considered high risk for schizophrenia and those who have experienced their first instance of psychosis—Koike and his team were able to train a machine learning algorithm to distinguish between the different conditions.
The algorithm learned to associate different psychiatric diagnoses with variations in the thickness, surface area or volume of areas of the brain in MRI images. It is not yet known why any physical difference in the brain is often linked to a specific mental health condition.
After the training period, the algorithm was tested with brain scans from 43 additional patients. The machine’s diagnosis matched the psychiatrists’ assessments with high reliability and up to 85 percent accuracy. Importantly, the algorithm could distinguish between non-patients, patients with autism spectrum disorder, and patients with either schizophrenia or schizophrenia risk factors.
“Autism spectrum disorder patients have a ten-times higher risk of schizophrenia than the general population. Social support is needed for autism, but generally the psychosis of schizophrenia requires medication, so distinguishing between the two conditions or knowing when they co-occur is very important,” said Koike.
The team found that the thickness of the cerebral cortex was the most useful feature for correctly distinguishing between individuals with autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia and neurotypical individuals. This highlights the role of cortex thickness in distinguishing between different psychiatric disorders and may direct future studies on understanding the causes of mental illness.
I was recently reminded by a psychiatrist friend of mine that ‘there can be nothing more isolating than a mental illness.’ And in a world where we’ve all experienced some forms of isolation this year, to varying degrees, it was a timely reminder to stop and focus on just how our mental health ecosystem can continue to support those consumers and their families who may be experiencing alienation, and a very real sense of being alone.
Six months into the pandemic, and looking ahead to at least another six months of uncertainty as a result of COVID-19, it was also a reminder to stop and acknowledge the fantastic work of our sector, and the thousands of people delivering and advocating for increased and improved mental health services on a daily basis.
To acknowledge the hard work and dedication of many who have adapted over this difficult period to help support and advocate for those who are most disadvantaged, and for the increased number of people who are finding themselves in a vulnerable position, some for this first time, as a result of the pandemic.
To the Senate Select Committee we highlighted how the pandemic has laid bare the disparities of our world today: disparities in income and wealth, and access to healthcare, along with disparate outcomes based on age, race or gender.
We acknowledged and welcomed the investments the Australian Government, and state and territory governments, have made in our nation’s mental health at this time, especially the introduction of JobKeeper and JobSeeker which have eased elements of the financial stressors for many Australians.
But we also highlighted that more needs to be done to protect the mental health and wellbeing of Australians and respond to those of us who are not ok.
While government funding and campaigns have rightly focused on the general population’s experiences of distress due to COVID-19, Mental Health Australia is particularly concerned about the pandemic exacerbating existing severe and complex mental illness, and the increased impact on carers of people with mental illness and psychosocial disability.
The challenges for people needing mental health care were well documented, well before COVID-19, and will be highlighted further by the impending release of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health.
Before COVID-19 we called on the Productivity Commission to recommend tangible structures to ensure consumer- and carer-led design, significant growth of community based mental health services, and plans and actions to address the social determinants of mental ill health.
Now, in the context of a COVID-19 world, we underline our position on those tangible structures needed for national reform and now add a focus on addressing the new financial, and health, stressors as a result of the pandemic.
Our recommendations are to:
Consider extension of the Extend the Coronavirus Supplement at the current rate, and include the Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, and Age Payment in the scheme
Extend JobKeeper at the current rate
Extend the expanded Medicare-subsided telehealth until at least June 2021
Provide funding to ensure provision of services and support for: a. people with moderate to severe mental illness, who are not eligible for NDIS but require more support than most mental health services are funded to provide b. people with other complex health needs, and c. people unable to use/access technology.
Ensure all policy, programs and payments related to COVID-19 are culturally safe, and are communicated to the public in languages other than English.
Furthermore we believe that these measures, along with those already introduced into the system in response to the pandemic would be most effectively leveraged through a longer term mental health reform plan linked with the Productivity Commissions work and backed by the 18 months of consultation and consideration from those in our mental health ecosystem. Those who have been further stretched to capacity over the six months, and will continue to be so over the months ahead.
Have a good weekend.
Leanne Beagley CEO
Last week our Director of Policy and Research Harry Lovelock was invited to present to the Hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS around workforce, where we highlighted the importance of a sustainable, well-qualified workforce to supporting the choice, control and independence of people with psychosocial disability.
We also called on the Australian Government to strengthen its role in market stewardship and fund an NDIS industry plan to strategically plan and coordinate development of the NDIS psychosocial workforce as well as establishing a National Centre for Mental Health Workforce Development and strengthen national governance and accountability.
On Monday I’ll be receiving a briefing on the new Victorian “Head to Health” hub program and on Tuesday linking with a primary care colleague at Melbourne University.
On Wednesday I’ll be dialling into a National Disability & Carers Alliance Meeting and meeting with the “Future Generation” team.
On Thursday I’m looking forward to the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance meeting as well as chairing the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Rural and Remote Working Group Meeting.
On Friday I’ll be taking part in the Primary Health Reform Steering Group Meeting and the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Taskforce meeting.
The Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (the Framework) is a free, nationally available online resource which allows organisations and individual practitioners to evaluate and enhance their cultural responsiveness. It has been mapped against national standards to help you meet your existing requirements, with access to a wide range of support and resources.
Our next webinar will be held on Wednesday 14 October where we will be exploring Module 4: Building a Culturally Responsive Mental Health Workforce. Watch this space for registration details closer to the date.
COVID-19 has put everyone under pressure, so it’s more important than ever that we keep our minds healthy. Beyond Blue has created a series of resources in a range of languages to help people in Australia understand how to find support and feel comfortable talking about their experiences.
Millions of Australians will continue to receive medical care and support in their own homes with the Morrison Government investing more than $2 billion to extend a range of COVID-19 health measures for a further six months, to 31 March 2021. Medicare-subsidised telehealth and pathology services, GP-led respiratory clinics, home medicines delivery, public and private hospital services will all be extended, as well as further investments in PPE.
Health professionals in drought and bushfire-affected rural communities have access to extra resources to help them deal with the mental health fallout from these events. CRANAplus, the peak professional body for Australia’s remote and isolated health workforce, has received Commonwealth funding to provide a suite of webinars, podcasts, and tailor-made workshops for those working on the frontline, to keep themselves and their communities resilient.
Orygen has received a $33 million grant from the United States’ National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop models for predicting outcomes for young people who are at imminent and high risk of psychotic illness. Orygen’s executive director, Professor Patrick McGorry, said the grant was, to the best of his knowledge, the largest competitive grant that had ever been awarded by the NIH to Australian-led medical research.
Mental Health Minister Roger Cook says the McGowan Government has officially opened Western Australia’s State-wide Recovery College for mental health and wellbeing. The college will provide courses and education throughout Western Australia, co-developed by people with lived experience of mental health and alcohol and other drug issues, to support others with their recovery.
The Morrison Government’s planned cuts to the Coronavirus Supplement for people on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and parenting payments would see the economy lose $31.3 billion and 145,000 full-time jobs over the next two years, finds analysis by Deloitte Access Economics commissioned by The Australian Council of Social Service.
The Mental Health Coalition of South Australia welcomes news that South Australia’s new Urgent Mental Health Care Centre will be delivered by local community mental health service provider NEAMI with RI International. This much needed centre is the first of its kind in Australia while similar models have been operating for a number of years in the United States.
Stride Stride is Australia’s longest-established mental health charity providing specialist mental health services to people with mental illness & complex needs since 1907. Our mission is simple. We provide services to support people at all stages of their mental health journey, from early intervention services, designed to support children, young people and adults at-risk of developing mental health conditions, to services for people with ongoing and complex needs. Wherever people are in their journey, we work with them to create the life they want.
Consumers of Mental Health WA (CoMHWA) CoMHWA is Western Australia’s peak body by, and for, people with a lived experience of mental health distress. Our core purpose is to strengthen and advance the voice, leadership and expertise of people with a lived experience of mental health issues and/or distress. We educate and raise awareness on consumer rights, promote peer support and the peer workforce, lead change with consumers and promote and support recovery and wellbeing with and for consumers.
Patient safety and continuity of care is extremely important, particularly for those patients who have chronic and complex diseases or conditions, vulnerable populations, the elderly, and the immunocompromised. There are mounting concerns that Australians are not maintaining their regular doctor visits for existing chronic conditions and/or putting off seeing their doctor to get a test, investigation, or immunisation due to fears of contracting COVID-19 or burdening the health system.
We all play an important role in ensuring our friends, neighbours, co-workers, and relatives stay safe and healthy. So remind them that when it comes to your health, #DontWaitMate!
Every child deserves the right to play! Central to playgroup are families, and Playgroup Australia wants to ensure that every playgroup meets your unique and wonderful needs, abilities, wants and more. The NDIS has awarded Playgroup Australia with funding to create the next generation of inclusive, all abilities play, but they can’t do it without your experience and support.
If you or your child (aged 0-5 years) are living with disability, Playgroup Australia would love to hear from you.
To get started they have one simple question for you: What is your favourite way to play at home, in therapy or at playgroup? Share your favourite activities and help create the next generation of play at playgroup.
This Mental Health Month, join a panel of experts to talk about Health Justice Partnerships, a unique and innovative solution to supporting people with co-occurring mental health and legal needs.
Produced through a collaboration between Mental Health Victoria, Health Justice Australia, Mental Health Legal Centre and First Step, this webinar will introduce you to the concept of Health Justice Partnerships, demonstrate how they work in practice with the aid of practical examples, and provide advice on how your service can benefit from a tailored partnership approach.
The Blue Tie Ball is back! Join batyr from your home for a night to remember.
This year has been a challenge for all of us, after postponing their much loved in-person event, batyr are stoked to have the opportunity to bring the community together online. Join batyr to show your support for youth mental health and spread some positivity!
SAVE THE DATE batyr’s Blue Tie Ball: Virtual Homecoming Saturday night, 31st October 2020 Join the live stream from anywhere! Theme: Homecoming
Prevention United presents a webinar on “Mental health and education in the post-COVID era” with partners the Australian Association of Psychologists (Inc), Parents Victoria, and Victorian Student Representative Council. This panel discussion will explore how Australia’s education system will need to evolve to promote and protect the mental health and wellbeing of students, parents and teachers in the wake of the challenges created by COVID-19. You will hear from student, parent, and mental health representatives who will also respond to audience questions.
Symptoms that prompted the University of Oxford and partner AstraZeneca to pause trials evaluating their experimental coronavirus vaccine probably weren’t related to the shot itself, according to documents sent to participants.
“After independent review, these illnesses were either considered unlikely to be associated with the vaccine or there was insufficient evidence to say for certain that the illnesses were or were not related to the vaccine,” the letter reads.
“In each of these cases, after considering the information, the independent reviewers recommended that vaccinations should continue.”