May 14, 2020

While physical health is an important concern during this crisis, the United Nations warned officials of the mental health crisis that can stem from the pandemic.

In a policy brief released on Thursday, May 14, the UN highlighted the mental strain that families and communities around the world are facing due to the effects of the pandemic—such as the threat of infection, loss of livelihoods and other repercussions brought about by drastic lockdown measures.

Dévora Kestel, head of the World Health Organization’s mental health and substance use department, noted that healthcare workers and first responders are particularly vulnerable, citing surveys conducted in Canada where nearly half of the healthcare workers reported the need for psychosocial support.

[READ: 7 clinics and organizations that offer mental health support for frontliners]

Aside from frontliners, children and women, elderly people are also particularly vulnerable. Children and women, in particular, face a heightened risk of domestic abuse given strict lockdown measures.

People who have a higher risk of contracting the virus, such as the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions, also face increased stress due to the threat of infection. Psychological issues may also be exacerbated, since treatment and face-to-face therapy is not possible for the time being.

[READ: Here’s where you can get a mental health checkup online or on the phone]

In line with this, the UN’s policy brief called for urgent action to address mental health issues induced by the pandemic. The brief stressed the need for the inclusion of access to psychosocial support and emergency mental health care in countries’ responses to the pandemic.

“After decades of neglect and underinvestment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned in a video message launching the brief.


Header photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

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Read more:

Pandemic anxiety is a thing, and here’s how you can deal with it

How to take care of your mental health, according to WHO and CDC

Mental health check: How digital psychotherapy helps us cope with pandemic anxieties

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