Psychological distress of COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world far more than expected, and the impact might be more serious in under-resourced countries like Nepal. During the second wave of the pandemic, a group of volunteers provided free telemental health services to people with COVID-19 in Nepal. In this context, we studied the prevalence of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation among the patient population.
A team of volunteer health professionals were trained to screen mental illnesses and provide psychological first aid (PFA). About 1000 people with COVID-19 infection receiving outpatient care were called and 582 of them consented for the study and the intervention. They were screened for depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation using GAD-2, PHQ-2 and C-SSRS respectively in July 2021. People with any mental illness symptoms were further evaluated and were provided PFA, and people with severe symptoms were further evaluated and treated by psychiatrists and counselors.
Almost half of the screened people were in age range 20-40, and 42% of them were female. Only 5.84% of them had anxiety, 6.53% had depression and 1.2% had suicidal ideation. PFA was provided to 158 people and 52 of them received further evaluation and treatment by psychiatrists and counselors using telephone only technology.
Tele-mental health care with telephone can be a viable option to improve access to care for people with COVID-19 infection in Nepal. The prevalence of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation in our study population in Nepal was less than that reported by other studies around the world.