St. Luke's new study focuses on impacts of COVID-19 on mental health

Posted at 4:38 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 10:38:57-05

BOISE, Idaho — St. Luke’s is studying how COVID-19 affects Idahoans’ mental health through a new research study.

“CDC research has shown 40% of Americans are suffering from some sort of mental distress during the covid-19 era but what we don’t know is how people in Idaho specifically are doing,” said Anna Radin with St. Luke's.

Soon we’ll have those answers. St. Luke’s is part of the Mental Health Among Patients, Providers, and Staff (MHAPPS) in the COVID-19 era study. It monitors the effects COVID has on mental health.

“What we’re seeing across our country is increased rates of anywhere from 20-30 percent increased rates of depression and anxiety, increased use of illicit substances,” said lead psychologist Christopher Edwards.

The team says there are different impacts, like financial hardship, schooling struggles, and isolation. They all take an emotional toll on Idahoans, which is the basis of the study. It also touches on how healthcare workers fare.

“Research has shown that frontline health care workers are at double the risk of dealing with suicidal ideation due to those stressors,” said Radin.

Radin says for the first time, they’re measuring how adolescences are struggling and which interventions work best to help.

“We are testing two different versions of a caring contact intervention; what that involves is sending a series of text messages to let someone know they’re thought about and cared for,” said Radin.

Doctors are currently studying the long term effects of COVID on the body, and mental health is another facet in the mix.

“I think the impact is going to be fairly significant, certainly for the time this pandemic continues, think we’ll have the same baseline issues that we’re having now, but for people who are struggling, it’s only going to get worse before it gets better,” said Edwards.

Edwards says there’s minimal research on this right now, and none focuses on rural areas, like Idaho, until now.

St. Luke’s Behavioral Health and Applied Research Divisions were awarded $450,000 to study the emotional tolls of COVID. They’re also partnering with the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline for the series of text messages being studied as an intervention for adolescents. You can text/call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-4357.