Psychological distress in the face of a pandemic: An observational study characterizing the impact of COVID-19 on immigrant outpatient mental health

Randal A. Serafini, Samuel K. Powell, Justin J. Frere, Alexandra Saali, Hannah L. Krystal, Vedika Kumar, Chittampalli Yashaswini, Josimar Hernandez, Kate Moody, Anne Aronson, Yasmin Meah, Craig L. Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Undocumented immigrants have disproportionately suffered during the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic due to factors including limited medical access and financial insecurity, which can exacerbate pandemic-associated distress. Psychological outcomes for immigrant outpatients were assessed after transition to telepsychiatry in March 2020. Mental health was assessed with Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-2) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-2) inventories, a novel coronavirus-specific survey, and the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10+). Feedback on telepsychiatry sessions and access to non-clinical resources were also gathered, after which multivariable linear regression modeling identified psychosocial factors underlying changes in distress levels. 48.57% and 45.71% of participants reported worsened anxiety and depression levels due to the pandemic, respectively. From March to April, PHQ-2 and GAD-2 scores significantly increased by 0.81 and 0.63 points, respectively. The average total psychological distress score was 23.8, with 60% of scores reflecting serious mental illness. Factors that most influenced K10+ scores included a pre-existing depressive disorder, food insecurity, and comfort during telepsychiatry visits. 93.75% of participants believed access to remote psychiatry helped their mental health during COVID-19. The negative impact of COVID-19 on mental health in vulnerable populations stems from medical and psychosocial factors such as pre-existing psychiatric conditions and unmet essential needs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113595
JournalPsychiatry Research
Volume295
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • COVID-19
  • Depression
  • Distress
  • Mental health
  • Telepsychiatry
  • Vulnerable populations

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