Leveraging anthropological expertise to respond to the COVID-19 global mental health syndemic

Am Anthropol. 2022 Jun 15;10.1111/aman.13747. doi: 10.1111/aman.13747. Online ahead of print.


This commentary asks anthropologists to work within communities to actively address the global mental health impact of COVID-19 and contribute to the pandemic response. Multiple social and physical losses, worsened by numerous factors, have produced syndemic traumatic stress and suffering across populations, highlighting persistent inequalities further amplified by the effects of COVID-19. Specifically, anthropologists can work to contribute to the development of mental health programs; confront the racialization of COVID-19 alongside marginalized communities; support real-time policy making with community responses; and innovate transparent collaborative research methods through open science. This pandemic can serve as an opportunity to prioritize research endeavors, public service, and teaching to better align with societal needs while providing new opportunities for synergy and collaborations between anthropologists in and outside the academy. Anthropologists collaborating directly with mental health clinicians and the public can contribute to knowledge specifically through direct program development and implementation of interventions designed to improve mental well-being. Innovating to find impactful solutions in response to the unprecedented mental health challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to promote more equitable recovery around the world.

Keywords: COVID‐19; implementation science; mental health; open science; syndemics.