- WHO has conducted a survey of 130 countries on mental health services
- WHO highlights extensive disruption of mental health services amid COVID-19
- There is a need of funding for aiding access to mental health services: WHO
New Delhi: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the world, it has been causing not just the physical damage to over 3.5 crore people worldwide but also mental health issues including stress, anxiety and depression to even a larger number of people, according to experts. However, the new study published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), ahead of the World Mental Health Day, celebrated every year on October 10, shows that while mental health issues are increasing, COVID-19 pandemic has extensively disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93 per cent of the countries worldwide.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation said,
Good mental health is absolutely fundamental to overall health and well-being. COVID-19 has interrupted essential mental health services around the world just when they’re needed most. World leaders must move fast and decisively to invest more in life-saving mental health programmes ̶ during the pandemic and beyond.
For the study, WHO surveyed 130 countries from June 2020 to August 2020 with an aim to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on mental health services. During the study, it evaluated how the provision of mental services, neurological services and substance use services have changed due to COVID-19 since the pandemic has started. The major findings of the survey include the following:
– Over 60 per cent of the total countries surveyed reported disruptions to mental health services for vulnerable people, including children and adolescents, older adults, and women requiring antenatal or postnatal services.
– 67 per cent of the 130 countries saw disruptions to counselling and psychotherapy.
– About 65 per cent of the total countries surveyed by the WHO has reported disruption to critical harm reduction services.
– More than a third have reported disruptions to emergency interventions including those for people experiencing prolonged seizures; severe substance use withdrawal syndromes.
– About a third has reported disruptions to access for medications for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.
– More than 70 per cent of the participating countries have reported at least partial disruption to school and workplace mental health service.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) October 5, 2020
According to the WHO, even though many countries around the world have adopted telemedicine or teletherapy to overcome disruptions to in-person services, there are significant disparities in the implementation of these interventions. The survey also highlighted that although 89 per cent of countries reported that mental health and psychosocial support is part of their national COVID-19 response plans, only 17 per cent of these countries have full additional funding for covering these activities.
WHO Urges Countries To Increase Funding Towards Mental Health Services
With its new survey, the WHO has also reiterated the previously highlighted observation that the countries are not investing adequately towards mental health services. WHO said,
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. There is an urgent need for increased funding. As the pandemic continues, even greater demand will be placed on national and international mental health programmes that have suffered from years of chronic underfunding. Spending 2 per cent of national health budgets on mental health is not enough. International funders also need to do more: mental health still receives less than 1 per cent of international aid earmarked for health.
According to Shumita Kakkar, Founder, United We Care, an online counselling and therapy start-up, mental health services are needed now more than ever. She said,
Income loss, being in isolation, bereavement, fear of the disease, fear of a close relative/friend getting the infection are some of the many reasons that are triggering mental stress in people. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to the pandemic. Post lockdown, the number of calls received on our mobile application has increased significantly and is still increasing every day. I am glad that people are at least acknowledging that they are facing some mental issue. We a network of about 300 professionals and we try to reach out to as many people as we can virtually.
She further said that the vulnerable sections in the low-income groups and in villages are still facing a lack of access to mental services. She suggested that in the country, each government hospital, both in cities and in rural areas, must have a dedicated ward for mental health services. She added that mental health problems need to be treated at par with physical health problem, in importance. She said that mental health professionals, along with community leaders, opinion builders and policymakers, should work towards demystifying various myths and help in removing the stigma attached with it, which is also one of the biggest reasons that is holding people back from seeking help.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.