Major European research grant for mental health research during COVID-19 pandemic

VU clinical psychologist Marit Sijbrandij and her research team have received more than six million euros from the European Union for the study "Improving the Preparedness of Health Systems to Reduce Mental Health and Psychosocial Concerns resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic".

08/27/2020 | 1:35 PM

The RESPOND project is one of four projects selected by the EU to investigate the long-term behavioral and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the project, fourteen partners from France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Australia work together with the WHO, with Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the lead. In addition to Sijbrandij, professors of Clinical Psychology Pim Cuijpers and Annemieke van Straten are also involved, and professor of Psychiatry Brenda Penninx of Amsterdam UMC, location VUmc.

The team will study the effects of the lockdown measures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic on the well-being and psychological health of individual citizens over the next three years. They analyze a large number of international longitudinal cohort studies, as well as the health registers of the authorities in Sweden, Northern Italy and Northern Spain. They also investigate to what extent compliance or non-compliance with the lockdown measures is related to specific characteristics of individuals and psychological distress.

In addition, the effects are investigated of new short-term programs that can reduce psychological distress such as anxiety and depression in people during the COVID-19 crisis. The team focuses on vulnerable groups such as health workers, as well as young people, the elderly, people who have lost their jobs, and people in precarious circumstances such as migrants. Digital tools are used to reduce stress complaints, and people who need additional support can use individual interventions that can also be offered remotely via "teleconferencing", if the lockdown measures do not allow contact with a therapist in real life. The project will start in January 2021, and the first results are expected six months later.

Marit Sijbrandij is associate professor of clinical psychology and director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Research and Dissemination of Psychological Interventions. She is head of the Global and Cross-cultural Mental Health research group at VU Amsterdam, Department of Clinical, Neuro- and Developmental Psychology.