Francesco Di Carlo

and 7 more

BACKGROUND: Initially identified in December 2019 in China, the 2019 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is now affecting more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Given the current unavailability of an effective medical cure for COVID-19, a public health strategy of reduced social contact and shelter in place has been adopted worldwide. Nonetheless, social distancing and isolation could also represent risk factors for mental disorders, determining loneliness, reduced social support and under-detection of mental health needs. Along with this, social distancing determines an insurmountable obstacle for direct access to psychiatric care services. The pandemic generates the urgent need for integrating technology into innovative models of mental healthcare. AIMS: In this paper we discuss the potential role of telepsychiatry and other cutting-edge technologies in the management of mental health assistance. We narratively review the literature to examine advantages and risks related to the massive application of these new therapeutic settings, along with the possible limitations and ethical concerns. RESULTS: Telemental health services are particularly feasible and appropriate for the support of patients, family members and health-care providers during this COVID-19 pandemic. The integration of telepsychiatry with other technological innovations (e.g., mobile apps, virtual reality, big data and artificial intelligence) opens up interesting future perspectives for the improvement of mental health assistance. CONCLUSION: The COVID-19 pandemic situation shows us how vast the amount of untreated mental illnesses can be. The pandemic crisis can contribute to spread, among numerous mental health professionals, the knowledge of the possibilities offered by the digital era.