Published: 02/25/2022

Stanford Mental Health Technology + Innovation Hub
  • Wednesday, March 2, 2022
  • 4:00 PM  5:30 PM

Join Stanford’s Mental Health Technology and Innovation Hub Wednesday, March 2 from 4:00-5:30 (Pacific) for an international panel and Q&A discussion on the mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lina Gega, PhD (University of York), Maria Karekla, PhD (University of Cyprus), Ann John, MD, PhD (Swansea University) and Mark Sinyor, MD, MSc (University of Toronto) will discuss the global mental health effects of the pandemic and the role that technology has played in mediating them, including through telepsychiatry, other online treatment interventions, social media use and remote education. Below are more detailed descriptions of the talks.

Professor Lina Gega: “Technology and the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental Health: The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent”

Over the Covid-19 pandemic, the world carried out a mass natural experiment through the rapid deployment of technology for work, education, healthcare, recreation and social interactions. The pandemic’s mental health effects have been negative and pronounced for specific population groups, but many people reported positive experiences and others did not experience any significant or sustained problems. Technology helped neutralize some of the negative – and mediated some of the positive – effects of the pandemic on mental health, by prompting the adoption of tele-psychiatry and digital interventions in routine care, and by enabling people to carry out enjoyable and purposeful activities and stay connected under social restrictive conditions. We will discuss how we can capitalize on the momentum we have gained and the culture shift that occurred in using technology during the pandemic to scale up the provision of creative and flexible mental health care in a post-Covid world, using a large clinical trial on behavioural activation for depression in adolescents as an example.

Professor Ann John: “Real-time evidence? COVID-19, self-harm and suicidal behaviors”

Early on in the pandemic concerns were raised about its impact on suicidal behaviors with many focusing on the unintended consequences of measures taken to curb its spread, such as increased levels of loneliness, domestic violence and economic hardship. Anti-lock down lobbyists, social media and news outlets seized on these fears. At a time of high levels of uncertainty and rapidly expanding research, we set up a living systematic review, continuously sifting the evidence as it was being published. This formed the basis of review papers, primary research and policy briefings. We’ll discuss our latest findings and the challenges, with a focus on children and young people.

Professor Mark Sinyor: COVID-19, Suicide Outcomes and Protective Effects of Resilience

Dr. Sinyor will discuss a) the complex effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide outcomes (including data that suggest mixed impacts on different groups and the important role of internet and technology use), b) what we know about suicide prevention and resilience promotion in general (with a focus on the impact of messaging and discourse on social media), and how we can leverage that knowledge to encourage resilience during this challenging time (with a focus on leveraging technology to promote narratives that facilitate help-seeking and that avoid inadvertently creating cultural expectations that suicide and suicidal behaviors are “useful” ways of coping).

Professor Maria Karekla:

Professor Karekla will discuss the global effects on depression, stress levels and overall wellbeing of pandemic-induced lockdowns based on a study of nearly 10,000 individuals from 78 countries. Professor Karekla will also discuss the role of online consultations in addressing the pandemic’s impact, with a focus on providers’ motivations and perceived barriers.