World’s mental health at stake as pandemic gnaws, WHO survey warns

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World's mental health at stake as pandemic gnaws, WHO survey warns - We The World
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The survey conducted by the WHO found a severe disruption in the world’s deliverance of mental health care services in the wake of the pandemic, and at a time when the demand is high.

According to the new study, the novel coronavirus pandemic has created such a devastating impact on mental health services that it calls for immediate increased funding and attention from the global community.

A survey, conducted between June to August 2020, across WHO’s six regions of 130 countries, was published ahead of the Big Event for Mental Health and it underscores the devastating impact of the pandemic, for the first published global data.

The pandemic has significantly affected or halted critical mental health services, it found, and as much as 93% of countries worldwide were affected when the demand for mental health service is at high demand, the WHO survey found.

On World Mental Health Day, 10 October, the World Health Organization is inviting the global community to take part in The Big Event for Mental Health, for the first time ever, to highlight the crucial need to increase investment in mental health at all levels.

In the wake of COVID-19, world leaders and celebrities will participate in advocating the call for increased mental health investments in the underfunded sector.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization says: “World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for the world to come together and begin redressing the historic neglect of mental health.”

“We are already seeing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s mental well-being, and this is just the beginning. Unless we make serious commitments to scale up investment in mental health right now, the health, social and economic consequences will be far-reaching,” he added.

In a position paper in The Lancet Psychiatry, a group of mental health professionals and other experts from all over the world noted that that the pandemic reveals both system failings and opportunities for improving mental health delivery. COVID-19 has led to increased warning signs of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Symptoms of unhealthy behaviors have been reported across the world. People recovered from COVID-19 face post-traumatic symptoms and psychological instability.

Scary job layoffs, furloughs, bereavement, loss of income, fear among others are on the rise while triggering existing conditions, WHO states in the media releaser.

The study authors say, “The possibility that SARS-CoV-2 is neurotropic emphasizes the need for evaluation of potential short-term and long-term effects on the nervous system”.

While on one hand, COVID-19 have given rise to neurological and mental complication such as delirium, agitation, and stroke, on the other hand, there has been a trigger on the intake level of alcohol and drugs, insomnia and anxiety due to grief, seclusion, loss of income and fear.

People with pre-existing mental, neurological, or substance use disorders are more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection and are susceptible to a higher risk of severe outcomes which may even lead to death.

Countries reported global disruption of various kinds of serious mental health services

The WHO survey was conducted between June to August 2020 among 130 countries. It traces how the pandemic has impacted the world’s provision of mental health, neurological, and substance use services. It found:  

·         Over 60% reported disruptions to mental health services for vulnerable people, including children and adolescents (72%), older adults (70%), and women requiring antenatal or postnatal services (61%).

·         67% saw disruptions to counseling and psychotherapy; 65% to critical harm reduction services; and 45% to opioid agonist maintenance treatment for opioid dependence.

·         Nearly a third (35%) reported disruptions to emergency interventions, including those for people experiencing prolonged seizures; severe substance use withdrawal syndromes, and delirium, often a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.

·         30% reported disruptions to access for medications for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.

·         Nearly three-quarters reported at least partial disruptions to school and workplace mental health services (78% and 75% respectively).

About 70% of the countries have adopted telemedicine and teletherapy to face the challenge of in-person services. However, there are significant disparities of acceptance towards these interventions. 

To bridge the gaps in mental health, over 80% of high-income countries have reported having been organizing telemedicine and teletherapy, compared with less than 50% of low-income countries.

Dr. Ingrid Daniels, President of the World Federation for Mental Health was quoted as saying: “It is nearly 30-years since the first World Mental Health Day was launched by the World Federation for Mental Health”.

“During that time, we have seen an increasing openness to talk about mental health in many countries of the world. But now we must turn words into actions.

We need to see concerted efforts being made to build mental health systems that are appropriate and relevant for today’s – and tomorrow’s – world.”

During the past few months, the World Health Organization has issued guidance and advice on how to maintain essential services to health workers, and other frontline workers, managers of health facilities, and people of all ages whose lives have changed considerably as a result of the pandemic.

With the disruption in mental health services, countries worldwide are finding innovative ways to provide care and initiatives on mental health and to strengthen psychosocial support.

Yet, because of the huge challenges of the current scenario, the vast majority of mental health needs remain unaddressed.

The lingering under-investment in mental health promotion, prevention, and care for many years before the pandemic have been the causal factors for hindering such a response.

WHO recommends that countries allocate resources to mental health as an integral component of the response and recovery plans.

Big Event for Mental Health

Previously, the WHO has stated how a minor budget (estimated less than 2% of the total) of the public health was dedicated to mental health services around the world prior to the pandemic.

The Organisation urges the countries to monitor changes and disruptions in the essential services, including mental health so that they can address them, as required.

Elisha London, Founder and CEO of United for Global Mental Health said, “With so many people lacking access to good quality, appropriate mental health services, investment is needed now more than ever”.  

She also stated, “Everyone, everywhere can participate in this year’s campaign. Whether you have struggled with your own mental health, know someone who has been affected, are a mental health expert, or if you simply believe that investing in mental health is the right thing to do, move for mental health, and help make mental health care and support accessible for everyone.”

On World Mental Health Day, 10 October, the World Health Organization will use the platform to advocate the work that its staff is doing around the world to reduce mental illness and the harmful use of alcohol and drugs.

At this – Big Event for Mental Health, world leaders and mental health leaders, experts, and influencers from the civil society groups will join the WHO Director-General to talk about their commitment to mental health and what more must be done.

People from around the globe are encouraged to participate in a virtual march.  From 19 countries through the Speak Your Mind campaign, there will be a 24-hour Livestream featuring people who would share their lived experience.  

There will be world-renowned musicians who have emphasized the importance of mental health will talk about their motivation and performance.

Sportsmen and women from all over the world whose lives have been affected by mental ill-health will share their experiences and how they have dealt with conditions such as depression and anxiety.

The Big Event is free and open to the public, will be broadcast on 10 October from 16:00 to 19:00 CEST on WHO’s YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn channels and website.

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