Eyes on the ball - and each other - in the times of COVID-19
Wed. 27. May 2020 14:52
The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted the individual partners of our project in many different ways. Some have been suffering from the severe disease themselves or have seen its impact on their family or friends. Many of us have had to balance the needs of family with those of our jobs. And all of us have had to change the way we work and carry out our daily tasks.
What hasn’t changed much is how we run our project and interact with each other. The nature of large-scale EU projects is virtual, and if anything, this experience has created even stronger ties in our consortium. We have made sure to check up on each other, while striving to conclude our trial in these trying circumstances and staying on course for the finalisation of our project in less than 11 months’ time.
While the current situation is terrible and affects us all, we have been fortunate in two ways. From a trial point-of view, the pandemic hit at a late stage in the project, which means that most of the data was already collected, and thus the outbreak only has a minor impact on the planned data collection. At the same time, it is a unique opportunity to study the impact of major disasters on implementation efforts and mechanisms. This will enable us to contribute to the global efforts of understanding better and helping implement the necessary technologies in times of crisis.
"We have managed previous crises such as earth quakes and forest fires, and we will manage this as well. We do this the same way as we would handle any other crisis. We dissect the impact into challenges and distribute responsibilities to the partners most capable of addressing each one. This project is truly blessed with a very strong group of people able to stay positive, keep their eyes on the ball, and move forward." - Kim Mathiasen, Project Coordinator
One significant impact of the pandemic on our project and trial is the rapidly increasing demand for online services in mental healthcare. While this has not yet reached self-help or blended care services like iCBT, the use of video consultations has reached unprecedented levels. We don’t expect our research to show this effect (given the timing of the crisis and our data collection), but it is likely that this new use of technology in the provision of mental health services would have a positive effect on other services as well.
At an earlier stage of the pandemic, an article by Tim R. Wind, Marleen Rijkeboer, Gerhard Anderson, and Heleen Riper called the current health crisis a “black swan” moment - an unforeseen event that changes everything - for mental health care that "will lead to a partly, though robust, shift in mental health care provision towards online prevention, treatment, and care in the near future".
At the very least, the field is getting a lot of attention. Just this week, our Coordinator Kim Mathiasen was featured in the national news broadcast giving his expert opinion on this subject.
We will follow the developments with interest and look forward to sharing our results on the effect of the ItFiTs-toolkit on ICBT implementation early next year.