United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres announced the UN’s policy brief on COVID-19 and mental health last week and urged the international community to do much more to protect those who face rising mental pressures. He said that mental health services are an essential part of all government responses to COVID-19 that must be expanded and fully funded.
“After decades of neglect and underinvestment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress,” Guterres said in a video message. “Those most at risk are frontline health care workers, older people, adolescents and young people, those with pre-existing mental health conditions, and those caught up in conflict and crisis,” he added. “We must help them and stand by them. Even when the pandemic is brought under control, grief, anxiety, and depression will continue to affect people and communities.”
Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Use, said it’s critical to take measures that protect and promote care for the existing situation “so that we can prevent things becoming worse in the near future.”
Past economic crises had “increased the number of people with mental health issues, leading to higher rates of suicide for example, due to their mental health condition or substance abuse,” she said.