Almost one billion people in the world live with a mental disorder. Every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide, and depression is now recognized as one of the leading causes of illness and disability among children and adolescents.
“All of this was true, even before COVID-19. We are now seeing the consequences of the pandemic on people’s mental well-being and this is just the beginning. Many groups, including older adults, women, children, and people with existing mental health problems, are at risk of serious health problems in the medium and long term if measures are not taken“Warned the General secretary in a message for World Mental Health Day that is celebrated this Saturday.
António Guterres recalled that addressing mental health is essential to achieve universal health coverage.
“It deserves our commitment. Very few people have access to quality mental health services. In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75% of people with mental health problems do not receive any treatment. And in general, governments spend on average less than 2 percent of their health budgets on this coverage. This cannot continue ”, he affirmed.
Guterres reiterated that the need for a massive increase in investment in mental health cannot be ignored.
“We must act together, now, to make quality mental health care available to all who need it to enable us to recover faster from the COVID-19 crisis,” he concluded.
The consequences of the pandemic
The World Health Organization recalls that the last few months have brought many challenges: for health workers, providing care in difficult circumstances, going to work with fear of catching it or taking the virus home; for students, adjusting to taking classes from home, with little contact with teachers and friends, and anxious about their future; for workers whose livelihoods are threatened; for the large number of people trapped in poverty or in fragile humanitarian settings with extremely limited protection against COVID-19; and for people with mental health problems, many of whom experience even greater social isolation than before.
“And this is without mentioning the management of the pain of losing a loved one, sometimes without being able to say goodbye,” says the WHO.
Additionally, the economic fallout from the pandemic is already being felt, as companies let staff go in an effort to save their businesses, or even shut down entirely.
Given past experience of emergencies, the need for psychosocial and mental health support is expected to increase substantially in the coming months and years. Investing in mental health programs at the national and international level, which have already suffered years of chronic underfunding, is now more important than ever, warns the WHO.
The goal of this year’s World Mental Health Day campaign is to increase investment in mental health care.
“World Day is an opportunity for the world to come together and begin to correct the historic neglect of mental health. We are already seeing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s mental well-being and this is only the beginning. . Unless we make serious commitments to increase investment in mental health at this time, the health, social and economic consequences will be far-reaching, “said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director.