Covid disrupts mental health service in over 90 per cent countries

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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted normal life across the world and the worse is that mental health services has been halted in 93 per cent of the countries worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO) made the revelation in a survey, which provides the first global impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

The WHO did the survey in 130 countries on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding. The survey is published ahead of WHO’s Big Event for Mental Health – a global online advocacy event on October 10 that will bring together world leaders, celebrities, and advocates to call for increased mental health investments in the wake of COVID-19.

The global health organisation noted that the demand for mental health service has increased in the wake of the pandemic. Bereavement, loss of income, isolation and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating the existing ones, the WHO said. It also said that several people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, anxiety and insomnia. The health organisation pointed out that the pandemic itself could lead to mental and neurological complications like agitation, delirium and stroke.

WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that good mental health was absolutely fundamental to overall health and well-being, “COVID-19 has interrupted essential mental health services around the world just when they are needed most. World leaders must move fast and decisively invest more in life saving mental health programmes during the pandemic and beyond,” he said.

KEY FINDINGS

  • Over 60 per cent reported disruptions to mental health services for vulnerable people including children and adolescents (72 per cent), older adults (70 percent) and women requiring antenatal or postnatal services (61 per cent).
  • 67 per cent disruptions to counselling and psychotherapy: 65 per cent to critical harm reduction services, and 45 per cent to opioid against maintenance treatment for opioid dependence.
  • About 35 per cent reported disruptions to emergency interventions, including those for people experiencing prolonged seizures, delirium and severe substance withdrawal syndromes
  • Thirty per cent reported disruptions to access for medications for mental, neurological and substance use disorders
  • Around three-quarters reported at least partial disruptions to school and workplace mental health services

Pointing out that about 70 per cent of the countries have adopted telemedicine or tele-therapy to overcome the issues, the WHO said that there were still significant disparities in the uptake of these interventions. It said that about 80 per cent of high income countries reported deploying telemedicine and teletherapy to bridge gaps in mental health. Meanwhile less than 50 per cent of the low income countries have adapted this, the WHO said.

The survey notes that 89 percent of the countries have reported that mental health and psychosocial support was part of their national COVID-19 response plans. However, 17 per cent of these countries have full additional funding for covering these activities, the WHO added.

“As the pandemic continues, even greater demand will be placed on national and international mental health programmes that have suffered from years of chronic underfunding. Spending two per cent of national health budgets on mental health is not on enough. International funders also need to do more; mental health still receives less than one percent of international aid earmarked for health, the World Health Organisation said.

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