Wednesday, April 14, 2021
St. Luke’s to Study COVID Impact on Mental Health
Denis Cote, the food and beverage director for Ketchum’s Limelight Hotel Ketchum, was practically incognito thanks to his face mask, sunglasses and hat as he helped out at a COVID-19-restricted Veterans Day celebration hosted by The Senior Connection and Higher Ground.
Thursday, November 12, 2020



St. Luke’s Health System has been awarded a grant to study the impact of COVID-19 on mental health.

St. Luke’s Behavioral Health land St. Luke’s Applied Research Division were awarded a $450,000 grant from Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to investigate the toll of COVID-19 on people’s emotional and mental well-being as it relates to loneliness, depression and anxiety. Researchers will also compare the effectiveness of two “Caring Contacts” interventions, which involves sending text messages to check in with people, letting them know someone's thinking about them.

Blaine County recorded its worst day since April 3 on Wednesday with 29 new cases, said Paul Ries. It has now recorded 1,036 official cases, although health officials admit many more have gone unrecorded.

The title of the study is Mental Health Among Patients, Providers and Staff (MHAPPS) in the COVID-19 era. St. Luke’s will partner with the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, Empower Idaho, University of Washington and community members who have experience with suicide to undertake the research.

The primary goal is to assess the level of mental distress in St. Luke’s providers, staff and patients and to study the best way to provide help.

So far, health officials across the United States have been surprised that suicide rates have gone down during the pandemic. But that could change as the pandemic drags on.

The pandemic adds anxiety, disruption, financial hardship as well as isolation and loneliness due to social distancing and quarantine at a time when the United States was already experiencing a high prevalence of mental health conditions and increasing suicide rates.  This may increase risk of suicide and can lead to or exacerbate other mental health conditions,” explained Anna K. Radin, DrPH, MPH, St. Luke’s applied research scientist. 

Idaho recorded its worst day since the pandemic started on Wednesday with 1,693 new cases for a total of 77,121. Nineteen more Idahoans died of COVID for a total of 733. And a record high number--361 people--are hospitalized with COVID with a record-high 94 in the ICU.

“We are very concerned about the increased national and local burden of mental health challenges created by the pandemic, and we want to be part of the solution,” added Dr. Jim Souza, St. Luke’s chief medical officer.

The research will add to the previously announced The Suicide Prevention Among Recipients of Care trial, which was delayed due to the pandemic. The SPARC trial is a three-year randomized clinical trial that compares two evidence-based interventions to prevent suicidal ideation and behavior in adults and adolescents who screen positive for suicide risk in St. Luke’s emergency departments and primary care clinics.

The goal is to determine the most effective approach to prevent someone from attempting suicide and  ensure that people receive the appropriate behavior health treatment.

Enrollment for the SPARC trial will begin mid-2021. The MHAPPS study is scheduled to start in January 2021 and run for 12 months.

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