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Briefing note on addressing mental health and psychosocial aspects of COVID-19 outbreak
Date : 2020/02/27


This briefing note is provided by UN’s Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), which summaries key mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) considerations in relation to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Six interventions are recommended for communities worldwide: 

  1. Helping older adults cope with stress.
  2. Supporting the needs of people with disabilities.
  3. Messages and activities for helping children deal with stress.
  4. MHPSS activities for adults in isolation/quarantine:
    • Physical exercise (e.g. yoga, tai chi, stretching)
    • Cognitive exercises
    • Relaxation exercises (e.g. breathing, meditation, mindfulness)
    • Reading books and magazines
    • Reduces the time spent looking at fearful images on TV
    • Reduce time listening to rumors
    • Search information from reliable sources
    • Reduce time looking for information (1 – 2 times per day, rather than every hour)
  5. Supporting people working in the COVID-19 response.
  6. MHPSS messages for the general public for dealing with stress:
    • It is normal to feel sad, distressed, worried, confused, scared or angry during a crisis.
    • Talk to people you trust.  Contact your friends and family.
    • If you must stay at home, maintain a healthy lifestyle (including a proper diet, sleep, exercise and social contact with loved ones at home).  Keep in touch with family and friends through email, phone calls and making use of social media platforms.
    • Don’t use tobacco, alcohol or other drugs to cope with your emotions.
    • If you feel overwhelmed, talk to a health worker, social worker, similar professional, or another trusted person in your community (e.g. religious leader or community elder).
    • Have a plan where to go and seek help for physical and mental health and psychosocial needs, if required.
    • Get the facts about your risk and how to take precautions.  Use credible sources to get information, such as WHO website or, a local or state public health agency.
    • Decrease the time you and your family spending watching or listening to upsetting media coverage.
    • Draw on skills that you have used in the past during difficult times to manage your emotions during this outbreak.

Please note that the context of COVID-19 is changing rapidly while the understanding of COVID-19 is constantly evolving.  This brief was last updated in February 2020.

Intervention pyramid for mental health and psychosocial support. Figure by: IASC
Related Link(1):Click here to read the full brief
Related Link(2):Introduction of IASC

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