Table of Contents  
LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 72-73

Policy actions to alleviate psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 pandemic: Experiences from Taiwan


1 Department of Psychiatry, Beitou Branch, Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center; Institute of Health Policy and Management, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
2 Institute of Health Policy and Management, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan

Date of Submission24-Apr-2020
Date of Acceptance29-Apr-2020
Date of Web Publication9-Jun-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ming-Wei Lin
Institute of Health Policy and Management, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, Taipei
Taiwan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/SHB.SHB_18_20

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How to cite this article:
Lin MW, Cheng Y. Policy actions to alleviate psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 pandemic: Experiences from Taiwan. Soc Health Behav 2020;3:72-3

How to cite this URL:
Lin MW, Cheng Y. Policy actions to alleviate psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 pandemic: Experiences from Taiwan. Soc Health Behav [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Jun 25];3:72-3. Available from: https://www.shbonweb.com/text.asp?2020/3/2/72/286260



Dear Editor,

As the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the psychosocial consequences that directly caused the epidemic per se and that indirectly caused by the implementation of disease control measures should not be overlooked. The World Health Organization has recognized mental health risk during the time of disease outbreak.[1] The fear of COVID-19 is also important and is getting growing attention in the literature.[2],[3] In this essay, we outline major mechanisms linking the epidemics to psychosocial consequences and present Taiwan's experiences in alleviating their impacts, which, in our view, have contributed to the success in epidemic control.

Previous studies have shown that during the time of disease outbreaks, specific groups are prone to mental health diseases, including those being infected and under quarantine,[4] healthcare workers,[5] and those who have preexisting psychological illness.[6] The overall mental health risk is also expected to increase on a population level. The disease could trigger fear and anxiety leading to emotional distress and compulsory behaviors, such as washing hands intensively and hoarding of facial masks, disinfectants, and other materials. On the other hand, the implementation of certain infection control strategies, such as identification of high-risk groups and quarantine, can lead to stigma and discrimination.

The Government of Taiwan has been effective in reducing public fear toward the disease through transparency and open communication. Soon after the establishment of the Central Epidemics Command Center (CECC) on January 20, 2020, Press Conference chaired by the Minister of Health and Welfare has been held and broadcast live on a daily basis. The CECC set up social media channels to inform the public about the development of COVID-19 epidemic and the disease control measures being undertaken. The CECC also mobilized resources to ensure and ration the supplies of personal protective equipment, and their availability at each purchasing location could be checked online. Through these actions, people receive not just correct and timely information but also supportive and encouraging messages, substantially lowering public fear and anxiety. Because of the early action to control COVID-19 infection, Taiwan is able to control the confirmed cases in a low number.[7]

With the consideration that people under quarantine might experience social isolation, self-blame, or even discrimination, local governments in coordination with the CECC have formed community-level networks to provide food and other necessities as well as emotional support. To encourage citizen's cooperation, the CECC actively honored the contribution of people who are put under quarantine, rather than seeing them as a threat to public health. Such an approach helps transform a sense of being punished to a sense of active citizen behavior deemed to be honored.

Experiences of Taiwan suggested that it is important to consider psychosocial aspects in disease control policy. For example, providing appropriate information and knowledge in a timely way can efficiently lower the fear, stigma, and discrimination of disease.[8] A comprehensive understanding of psychosocial effects and the benefits of incorporating public mental health perspectives into disease control strategies can never be overlooked. Given that disease control measures require citizens' cooperation, it is important to take into consideration the psychosocial impacts of the disease as well as disease control, both for the effectiveness of disease control measures and for the improvement of public mental health.

Financial support

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
World Health Organization. Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations during the COVID-19 Outbreak, 18 March 2020. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Ahorsu DK, Lin CY, Imani V, Saffari M, Griffiths MD, Pakpour AH. The Fear of COVID-19 Scale: Development and Initial Validation [published online ahead of print, 2020 Mar 27]. Int J Ment Health Addict 2020;1-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Sakib N, Bhuiyan AKMI, Hossain S, Al Mamun F, Hosen I, Abdullah AH, et al. Psychometric validation of the Bangla fear of COVID-19 Scale: Confirmatory factor analysis and Rasch analysis. [Published online ahead of print, 2020 May 11]. Int J Ment Health Addict 2020;1-12.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Sim M. Psychological trauma of Middle East respiratory syndrome victims and bereaved families. Epidemiol Health 2016;38:e2016054.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Wu P, Fang Y, Guan Z, Fan B, Kong J, Yao Z, et al. The psychological impact of the SARS epidemic on hospital employees in China: Exposure, risk perception, and altruistic acceptance of risk. Can J Psychiatry 2009;54:302-11.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Cheung YT, Chau PH, Yip PS. A revisit on older adults suicides and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in Hong Kong. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 2008;23:1231-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Wang CJ, Ng CY, Brook RH. Response to COVID-19 in Taiwan: Big data analytics, new technology, and proactive testing. JAMA 2020;323:1341-2.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Lin CY. Social reaction toward the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Soc Health Behav 2020;3:1-2.  Back to cited text no. 8
  [Full text]  



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