UBC Faculty Research and Publications

A Rapid Realist Review of Effective Mental Health Interventions for Individuals with Chronic Physical Health Conditions during the COVID-19 Pandemic Using a Systems-Level Mental Health Promotion Framework Stabler, Lorna; MacPhee, Maura; Collins, Benjamin; Carroll, Simon; Davison, Karen; Thakkar, Vidhi; Fuller-Thomson, Esme; Lin, Shen (Lamson); Hey, Brandon


The 2020 global outbreak of COVID-19 exposed and heightened threats to mental health across societies. Research has indicated that individuals with chronic physical health conditions are at high risk for suffering from severe COVID-19 illness and from the adverse consequences of public health responses to COVID-19, such as social isolation. This paper reports on the findings of a rapid realist review conducted alongside a scoping review to explore contextual factors and underlying mechanisms or drivers associated with effective mental health interventions within and across macro–meso–micro systems levels for individuals with chronic physical health conditions. This rapid realist review extracted 14 qualified studies across 11 countries and identified four key mechanisms from COVID-19 literature—trust, social connectedness, accountability, and resilience. These mechanisms are discussed in relation to contextual factors and outcomes reported in the COVID literature. Realist reviews include iterative searches to refine their program theories and context–mechanism–outcome explanations. A purposive search of pre-COVID realist reviews on the study topic was undertaken, looking for evidence of the robustness of these mechanisms. There were differences in some of the pre-COVID mechanisms due to contextual factors. Importantly, an additional mechanism—power-sharing—was highlighted in the pre-COVID literature, but absent in the COVID literature. Pre-existing realist reviews were used to identify potential substantive theories and models associated with key mechanisms. Based on the overall findings, implications are provided for mental health promotion policy, practice, and research.

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