COVID-19 Pandemic Already Having Impact on People’s Mental Health – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that there is a need for a substantial investment to avert mental health crisis that may occur after COVID-19.

The world health body in a policy brief on COVID-19 and mental health issued today noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an urgent need to increase investment in services for mental health or risk a massive increase in mental health conditions in the coming months.

“The impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health is already extremely concerning,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often employment.”

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Depression and anxiety are increasing

According to several reports, there is an increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety in a number of countries.

“A study in Ethiopia, in April 2020, reported a 3-fold increase in the prevalence of symptoms of depression compared to estimates from Ethiopia before the epidemic.

“Specific population groups are at particular risk of COVID-related psychological distress. Frontline health-care workers, faced with heavy workloads, life-or-death decisions, and risk of infection, are particularly affected. During the pandemic, in China, health-care workers have reported high rates of depression (50%), anxiety (45%), and insomnia (34%) and in Canada, 47% of health-care workers have reported a need for psychological support.

“Children and adolescents are also at risk. Parents in Italy and Spain have reported that their children have had difficulties concentrating, as well as irritability, restlessness and nervousness. Stay-at-home measures have come with a heightened risk of children witnessing or suffering violence and abuse. Children with disabilities, children in crowded settings and those who live and work on the streets are particularly vulnerable.

“Other groups that are at particular risk are women, particularly those who are juggling home-schooling, working from home and household tasks, older persons and people with pre-existing mental health conditions. A study carried out with young people with a history of mental health needs living in the UK reports that 32% of them agreed that the pandemic had made their mental health much worse.”

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The policy brief also noted that an increase in alcohol consumption is another area of concern for mental health experts as statistics from Canada shows that 20% of 15-49 year-olds have increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic.

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