Covid-19 disrupting mental health services in most countries: WHO survey

Covid-19 disrupting mental health services in most countries: WHO survey

Geneva:  The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide while the demand for mental health is increasing, according to a new WHO survey.

The survey of 130 countries provides the first global data showing the devastating impact of Covid-19 on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding.

The survey was published ahead of WHO’s Big Event for Mental Health – a global online advocacy event on 10 October that will bring together world leaders, celebrities, and advocates to call for increased mental health investments in the wake of Covid-19.

WHO has previously highlighted the chronic underfunding of mental health: prior to the pandemic, countries were spending less than 2 per cent of their national health budgets on mental health, and struggling to meet their populations’ needs.

And the pandemic is increasing the demand for mental health services. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection - they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death.

The survey was conducted from June to August 2020 among 130 countries across WHO’s six regions. It evaluates how the provision of mental, neurological and substance use services has changed due to Covid-19, the types of services that have been disrupted, and how countries are adapting to overcome these challenges.

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