Shot of a senior woman in a wheelchair looking sad, depressed at a nursing home
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Clinicians should keep a lookout for mental health symptoms related to long COVID, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Older adults may be at particularly high risk, the agency reports.

In a Wednesday advisory, HHS warned that long COVID not only is linked to a range of lasting health symptoms following SARS-CoV-2 infection, but also is associated with social isolation, financial insecurity, caregiver burnout and grief. For some patients, the illness’ effect on their mental health can be devastating, it stated.

Mental health conditions that may affect patients with long COVID include fatigue, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, psychosis, cognitive impairment, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others, the agency reported.

“People with Long COVID need to be properly identified and, as needed, referred for treatment for mental health conditions, in addition to addressing their physical symptoms,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, PhD, HHS assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Delphin-Rittmon recommended that clinicians help patients to connect directly to SAMHSA services and supports, including through and the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

Older adults are at a relatively higher risk of infection and mortality from COVID-19, and were more likely to be impacted by loneliness and isolation during the lockdowns of the early pandemic. About 40% of adults aged 60 and older reported loneliness during the pandemic, leading to an increased risk of experiencing mental health problems, according to data cited in a earlier SAMHSA report.

The advisory, including more recommendations for identifying mental health symptoms, assessment and treatment, is titled Identification and Management of Mental Health Symptoms and Conditions Associated with Long COVID, and can be downloaded from the HHS website.

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