The impact of Covid-19 on Belgian mental health care: A Delphi study among psychosocial health professionals, patients, and informal caretakers.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic is primarily viewed as a threat to physical health, and therefore, biomedical sciences have become an integral part of the public discourse guiding policy decisions. Nonetheless, the pandemic and the measures implemented have an impact on the population’s psychosocial health. The impact of Covid-19 on the psychosocial care system should be thoroughly investigated to mitigate this effect. In this context, the present study was conducted to establish a consensus about the impact of Covid-19 on psychosocial health and the care system in Belgium. Using the Belgian Superior Health Council’s expert database, a three-round Delphi consensus development process was organized with psychosocial experts (i.e., professionals, patients, and informal caregiver representatives). Overall, 113 of the 148 experts who participated in round 1 fully completed round 2 (76% response rate). Consensus (defined as >70% agreement and an interquartile interval (IQR) of no more than 2) was reached in round 2 for all but three statements. Fifty experts responded to round 3 by providing some final nuances, but none of them reaffirmed their positions or added new points to the discussion (44.25% response rate). The most robust agreement (>80%) was found for three statements: the pandemic has increased social inequalities in society, which increase the risk of long-term psychosocial problems; the fear of contamination creates a constant mental strain on the population, wearing people out; and there is a lack of strategic vision about psychosocial care and an underestimation of the importance of psychosocial health in society. Our findings show that experts believe the psychosocial impact of Covid-19 is underappreciated, which has a negative impact on psychosocial care in Belgium. Several unmet needs were identified, but so were helpful resources and barriers. The Delphi study’s overarching conclusion is that the pandemic does not affect society as a whole in the same way or with the same intensity. The experts, thereby, warn that the psychosocial inequalities in society are on the rise.
Original languageEnglish
Article number330
Pages (from-to)330-339
Number of pages9
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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