Objective: To review the most common mental health strategies aimed at alleviating and/or preventing mental health problems in individuals during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and other coronavirus pandemics.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review of the literature assessing three databases (PubMed, SCOPUS, and PsycINFO). A meta-analysis was performed with data from randomized controlled trials (RCTs). For non-RCT studies, a critical description of recommendations was performed.
Results: From a total of 2,825 articles, 125 were included. Of those, three RCTs were included in the meta-analysis. The meta-analysis revealed that the interventions promoted better overall mental health outcomes as compared to control groups (standardized mean difference [SMD] = 0.87 [95%CI 0.33-1.41], p < 0.001, I2 = 69.2%), but did not specifically improve anxiety (SMD = 0.98 [95%CI -0.17 to 2.13], p > 0.05; I2 = 36.8%). Concerning the systematic review, we found a large body of scientific literature proposing recommendations involving psychological/psychiatric interventions, self-care, education, governmental programs, and the use of technology and media.
Conclusions: We found a large body of expert recommendations that may help health practitioners, institutional and governmental leaders, and the general population cope with mental health issues during a pandemic or a crisis period. However, most articles had a low level of evidence, stressing the need for more studies with better design (especially RCTs) investigating potential mental health interventions during COVID-19.
Prospero registration: CRD42020190212.