MIND-VR – Virtual Reality for the Prevention and Treatment of Stress and Anxiety Disorders in Healthcare Personnel Involved in the COVID-19 Emergency
Goal: To ensure the continuity of healthcare and to counter the spread of the COVID-19 virus, doctors and nursing staff at hospitals must face an insidious, invisible danger that is stretching the national healthcare system far past its capacity. Exhausting work rhythms and the need to manage patients experiencing extreme suffering and being kept apart from their families are an enormous emotional burden on hospital staff. These conditions put hospital staff at a high risk of developing stress-related psychopatological symptoms and anxiety disorders (Liu et al., 2020; Qiu et al., 2020; Zhu et al., 2020), especially post-traumatic stress disorder (Greenberg et al., 2020; Huang et al., 2020), with serious consequences on their mental and physical health.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that, among various therapeutic programs, virtual reality represents a highly specialized and effective tool for the prevention and treatment of anxiety disorders (Maples-Keller, Bunnell, Kim, & Rothbaum, 2017; Oing & Prescott , 2018; Parsons & Rizzo, 2008; Wechsler et al., 2019), including post-traumatic stress disorder (Botella et al., 2015; Hoffman, 2004; Rothbaum et al., 1995). Therefore, this approach has been applied for several years in victims of war (Gerardi et al., 2008; McLay et al., 2011; Rizzo et al., 2009), natural disasters (Duan et al., 2019), and terrorist attacks (Difede et al., 2007, 2014). The use of this immersive technology can help patients both process the emotional aspects of traumatic memories and learn useful resources to better manage anxiety, including relaxation techniques (Anderson et al., 2017; Gaggioli et al., 2014; Lindner et al., 2019; Pizzoli et al., 2019).
Within this context, the MIND-VR project – selected from the crowdfunding call of the University of Milano-Bicocca in collaboration with Produzioni dal Basso (https://unimib.produzionidalbasso.com) – was created with the aim to:
– Design, develop and test an advanced solution based on the use of virtual reality for the prevention and treatment of stress-related psychopatological symptoms and anxiety disorders in hospital healthcare personnel involved in the COVID-19 emergency.
In particular, the expected results of MIND-VR concern:
• Creation of virtual reality contents built to: (a) offer basic education on stress and anxiety, particularly the causes and effects of these conditions, to improve people’s ability to manage them; (b) gradually expose people to significant situations experienced during the emergency in order to facilitate emotional processing of the trauma; and (c) facilitate the learning of relaxation techniques (for example, progressive muscle relaxation) through the use of virtual environments created ad hoc.
• Sharing of these virtual contents for free (with an italian and an english version), with the aim of making them accessible by hospital healthcare personnel and any mental health expert (psychotherapist and psychiatrist) worldwide.
• Creation of a scientific intervention protocol for the use of the contents developed in virtual reality. A manual will be produced containing the experimental protocols of the interventions, which will provide a detailed description of the timing, tools, proposed contents and psychometric measures to be adopted for verification of effectiveness.
More details on the website www.mind-vr.com
- Research designer and project manager
- Design and evaluation of the virtual reality contents the prevention and treatment of stress-related psychopatological symptoms and anxiety disorders
- Creation of the website and social media manager