COVID-19 isolation has had a very serious impact, especially on these scleroderma patients who are immunocompromised and have a higher chance of dying if they catch it. This shows that virtual intervention can be very effective in mitigating these mental health issues in a cost-effective way across large cohorts of patients.”
The intervention did not show improvements for the global cohort immediately following the program. However, anxiety and depression symptoms dropped significantly six weeks later, potentially revealing the time it took for new skills and social support to take effect.
The Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network designed a four-week program that offered group mental health intervention from trained peer support leaders three times each week. To ensure access, members of the waitlisted control group were still offered the SPIN therapy. While this intervention took place before the COVID-19 vaccine was widely available, the disease is a paradigm for public health issues that cause people increased anxiety, Varga said.
John Varga, M.D., co-author of the study, chief of the Michigan Medicine Division of Rheumatology and associate director of the U-M Scleroderma Program
Source: “If something else comes along where people with a chronic disease are vulnerable or anxious, you can intervene in a virtual way that has a measurable impact,” he said. “This allows participants to be educated on staying connected, physical activity, and managing worry and stress. It sends a very positive message.”
Journal reference: Newby, J.M., (2021) A complex intervention to improve anxiety in people with systemic sclerosis during COVID-19. Lancet Rheumatology. doi.org/10.1016/S2665-9913(21)00084-9. Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan
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