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.
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.