The UN Health Department announced the results on Monday, saying the pandemic had increased the need for vital services.
“COVID-19 has disrupted critical mental health services around the world, right when they are needed most,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, calling on world leaders “to act quickly and decisively Invest more in life-saving mental illness. ”Health programs – during the pandemic and beyond. ”
“Good mental health is fundamental to general health and well-being,” he added.
Grief, isolation, loss of income and fear trigger or exacerbate mental illnesses. According to the WHO, many people may be exposed to increased alcohol and drug use, insomnia and anxiety.
COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and psychological complications such as delirium, restlessness and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological, or substance use disorders are also more prone to SARS-CoV-2 infections – they may be at higher risk for serious consequences and even death.
The survey, which was carried out in 130 countries between June and August 2020, assessed how the provision of services for mental, neurological and substance use has changed due to COVID-19, what types of services have been disrupted and how the countries have changed to adjust.
It found that many countries (70 percent) adopted telemedicine or teletherapy to overcome disruptions in personal services, but there were significant differences between them. More than 80 percent of high-income countries said they were using such measures to bridge gaps, compared with less than 50 percent of low-income countries, according to the WHO.
The results also showed that counseling and psychotherapy were disrupted in 67 percent of countries, 65 percent reported effects on services to reduce critical harm, and 45 percent on treatment for opioid addiction.
More than a third (35 percent) reported disruptions to emergency response, including those in people with prolonged seizures, withdrawal syndromes with heavy substance use, and delirium, which are often a sign of a serious underlying disease. Three out of ten countries also reported impaired access to drugs for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.
Findings were released in advance of the UN Health Authority’s Big Event for Mental Health – a global online advocacy event on October 10th that will highlight the need for increased investment in mental health post COVID-19.
Ensure resources for critical services
WHO recalled its guidelines on maintaining essential services – including mental health services – during COVID-19 and urged countries to allocate mental health resources as an integral part of their response and recovery plans.
According to the survey results, 89 percent of countries said mental health and psychosocial support are part of their national COVID-19 response plans, but only 17 percent of them said they had additional funding to cover these activities.
“All of this underscores the need for more money for mental health,” the WHO said, noting that as the pandemic worsens, there will be even greater demand for national and international mental health programs that have suffered from years of chronic underfunding.
Before the pandemic, countries spent less than 2 percent of their national health budgets on mental health and struggled to meet the needs of their populations, the UN agency added, calling for more resources for the sector, including from international partners, than mental health is receiving less than 1 percent of international health aid.
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