In an article by the World Health Organization, there are reports indicating that there is an increase in symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. The article elaborates that in a study conducted in Ethiopia in April 2020, a three-fold increase was seen in the prevalence of symptoms of depression compared to estimates from Ethiopia before the epidemic.
This led the agency to initiate a call for investment in the services of mental health, else it will ‘risk a massive increase in mental health conditions in the coming months – in a policy brief on COVID-19 and mental health issued by the United Nations.
“The impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health is already extremely concerning. Social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often employment,” states Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, in an article by WHO.
Moreover, the agency identified specific population groups that are at risk for COVID-related psychological distress. This includes frontline healthcare workers, children, adolescents, women, older persons, and people living with pre-existent mental health conditions.
“It is now crystal clear that mental health needs must be treated as a core element of our response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a collective responsibility of governments and civil society, with the support of the whole United Nations System. A failure to take people’s emotional well-being seriously will lead to long-term social and economic costs to society,” Dr Ghebreyesus reveals.
Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use at WHO, agrees with Dr Ghebreyesus. Kestel states that the reorganization of mental health services is needed in a global scale and serves as an opportunity to build a mental health system for the future.
“This means developing and funding national plans that shift care away from institutions to community services, ensuring coverage for mental health conditions in health insurance packages and building the human resource capacity to deliver quality mental health and social care in the community,” states Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use at WHO.