COVID-19 disrupted critical mental health services, according to WHO

The global health crisis has disrupted critical mental health services in 93% of the countries it surveyed, which underscores the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights an urgent need to scale up funding, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.

The WHO also said that the epidemic has increased the need for the vital services.

General Director of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called on world leaders to move decisively and fast in order to invest more in life-saving mental health programs during and beyond the health crisis. He added that good mental health is fundamental to overall health and well-being.

Fear, isolation, bereavement, and loss of income are causing mental health conditions. Many people might be facing increased levels of insomnia, anxiety, and drug use, according to WHO.

Coronavirus can cause neurological and mental complications, like agitation, delirium, and stroke. People with mental, neurological, or substance use disorders are more vulnerable to the virus infection, so they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes.

The survey conducted by WHO between June and August 2020 evaluated how the supplement of mental, neurological, and substance use services changed due to the pandemic and how the countries are adapting.

It showed that although 70% of all the countries has adopted telemedicine or teletherapy to overcome disruptions to in-person services, there were significant difference among them. More than 80% of high-income countries reported deploying these measures to bridge gaps, compared with less than 50% of low-income countries, according to WHO.

The results were released right before the WHO’s Big Event for Mental Health – a global online advocacy event to be held on 10 October to highlight the need for more investments in mental health amid the spreading of the COVID-19.

Before the pandemic, countries were spending not more than 2% of their national health budgets on mental health, the WHO added and called for increased resources for the sector.