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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of people across the world due to its impact on mortality, disruption of the social fabric, toll on health care systems, devastating economic repercussions, and impact on mental health. People with pre-existing medical conditions, like scleroderma, that put them at risk of COVID-19 complications are also at risk for poor mental health. The SPIN-CHAT Program is a group videoconference-based intervention that was developed by researchers, clinicians, and SPIN COVID-19 Patient Advisory Team members, based on recommendations from international public health organizations. Launched in April 2020, the trial offers multi-faceted approaches to providing mental health coping strategies and social support to reduce isolation: psychological tools to reduce anxiety and tools to support maintaining a daily routine, healthy information management, staying connected with others, and being as physically active as possible.

About the SPIN-CHAT Program

  • Over 200 intervention and waitlist participants, 14 moderators, and 6 educators from 12 countries (Canada, the US, France, Australia, New Zealand, and others) took part in the program.

  • Groups of 6-10 participants met 3 times a week for 4 weeks via GoToMeeting® videoconferences.

  • Sessions lasted 90 minutes and were led by a SPIN-SSLED-certified moderator. Each session included 3 segments: 

  1. Engagement via therapeutic recreation activities

  2. Mental health coping strategy education and practice

  3. Open discussion and social support

  • Educational segment topics included: 

  1. A program overview (session 1)

  2. Healthy information management (session 2)

  3. Worry management (sessions 3, 7, 11)

  4. Relaxation techniques (sessions 4, 8)

  5. Adapted home exercise (sessions 5, 9, 12)

  6. Home activity engagement (sessions 6, 10).

Trial Status

Trial complete. 

The SPIN Team offered an extension of the educational segments of the program by offering weekly 5 educational webinars, from February 2nd to March 10th 2021. Click here for more information.

Associated Publications

Thombs BD, Kwakkenbos L, Carrier, ME, Bourgeault A, Tao L, Harb S, Gagarine M, Rice D, Bustamante L, Ellis K, Duchek D, Wu Y, Bhandari PM, Neupane D, Carboni-Jiménez A, Henry RS, Krishan A, Sun Y, Levis B, He C, Turner KA, Benedetti A, Culos-Reed N, El-Baalbaki G, Hebblethwaite S, Bartlett SJ, Dyas L, Patten S, Varga J, Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network (SPIN) COVID-19 Patient Advisory Team, SPIN Investigators. Protocol for a partially nested randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network COVID-19 Home-isolation Activities Together (SPIN-CHAT) Program to reduce anxiety among at-risk scleroderma patients. J Psychosom Res. 2020;135:110132. Link

Thombs BD, Kwakkenbos L, Levis B, Bourgeault A, Henry RS, Levis AW, Harb S, Tao L, Carrier ME, Bustamente L, Duchek D, Dyas L, El-Baalbaki G, Ellis K, Rice DB, Wurz A, Nordlund J, Gagarine M, Turner KA, Østbø N, Culos-Reed N, Hebblethwaite S, Patten S, Bartlett SJ, Varga J, Mouthon L, Markham S, Martin MS, Benedetti A, and the SPIN-CHAT Patient Advisory Team and Program Facilitators on behalf of the Scleroderma Patient-centered Intervention Network Investigators. Effects of a multi-faceted education and support program on anxiety symptoms among people with systemic sclerosis with at least mild anxiety during COVID-19: a two-arm parallel partially nested randomised controlled trial. Lancet Rheumatol. Epub ahead of print. Link


The SPIN-CHAT program has been funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the MI4 McGill University Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity Emergency COVID-19 Research Fund, Scleroderma Canada (made possible by an educational grant for patient support programming from Boehringer Ingelheim), the Scleroderma Society of Ontario, Sclérodermie Québec, Scleroderma Manitoba, Scleroderma Atlantic, the Scleroderma Association of BC, Scleroderma SASK, Scleroderma Australia, Scleroderma New South Wales, Scleroderma Victoria, Scleroderma Queensland.

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