A recent study found that nearly 60 percent of people across the globe are experiencing symptoms of mental health issues since the outbreak of Covid-19—the study, which the World Health Organization conducted, surveyed over 27,000 adults in 27 countries.
The findings indicated that anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems experienced, with women and young adults being particularly affected.
The data also showed that people who have lost their jobs or care for others are more likely to experience mental health problems.
The WHO has urged governments to support those who are struggling with their mental health during this difficult time.
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to her or his community.” Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.
It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is essential at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a profound impact on mental health worldwide
For example, in the United States, the number of people seeking treatment for anxiety and depression has increased by more than 30%. The pandemic has also been associated with increased suicidal ideation and self-harm. In China, the rate of reported suicides has doubled since the early months of the pandemic.
- The pandemic has also had a significant impact on children’s mental health. A recent study found that one in four children in the UK is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression.
- The pandemic has also been linked to increased domestic violence and child abuse. In Italy, for example, the number of reported domestic violence cases has increased by 40%.
- Following the 2022 World Mental Health Day, when world leaders recognized the danger of mental illness, concerns about potential rises in mental health problems have prompted 90% of countries to include mental health and psychosocial support in their COVID-19 response plans. However, significant gaps and uncertainties remain.
- “The impact of COVID-19 on the world’s mental health is only the beginning,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “This is a wake-up call for all nations to pay greater attention to mental health and improve their efforts to support their people’s mental health.”
Multiple stress factors
One significant reason for the rise is the tremendous stress created by the pandemic’s social isolation. Constraints on individuals’ abilities to work, seek assistance from family members, and participate in their communities were also linked to this.
Loneliness, the threat of infection, suffering, and death for oneself and loved ones, grief after bereavement, and financial problems are all factors that have been linked to anxiety and depression. Exhaustion among health care professionals has been a significant cause of suicidal thoughts.
Young people and women are the worst hit.
The letter, which is based on a comprehensive study of current evidence relating to the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and mental health services, concludes that the epidemic has influenced young people’s mental health and that they are disproportionately prone to suicidal self-harming behaviors.
The study also revealed that women have been more severely impacted than males and that those with physical health issues such as
- heart disease
were more likely to acquire mental problems symptoms.
Mental illness is often viewed as an invisible disability, but the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the significant challenges that people with mental health conditions face.
Although there is no evidence that people with mental illness are more likely to contract the virus, data shows that they are more likely to experience severe symptoms and require hospitalization if they become infected. This is likely due to several factors, including poorer physical health, higher levels of stress, and social isolation.
The pandemic has also had a profound impact on mental health overall, with rates of anxiety and depression rising sharply in recent months. For many people with mental illness, the pandemic has triggered old symptoms or the onset of new ones.
Gaps in care
The prevalence of mental health issues is rising, especially among young people. This has coincided with significant service disruptions, resulting in substantial gaps in care for those who need it most.
For most of the pandemic, mental, neurological, and substance use services were the most disrupted among all essential health services mentioned by the WHO Member States. Many nations also reported significant disruptions in life-saving services for mental health, including suicide prevention.
By the end of 2021, things had improved somewhat, but many people continue to be unable to obtain adequate care and support for both pre-existing and newly acquired mental illnesses.
Many people have turned to the internet to gain face-to-face care, indicating a critical need for reliable and effective digital technology. Developing and delivering digital tools, on the other hand, is still a significant problem in resource-limited areas and circumstances.
WHO and country action
Since the pandemic, WHO and partners have collaborated to create and distribute resources in numerous languages and formats to help a wide range of people cope with and respond to COVID-19’s mental health consequences.
- As an example, since 2011, WHO has published a storybook for 6-11-year-olds called My Hero Is You, which is now available in 142 languages and 61 multimedia adaptations and a resource for assisting older adults that is accessible in 16 languages.
- The Organization has collaborated with other United Nations agencies, international nongovernmental organizations, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to coordinate interagency mental health and psychosocial response to COVID-19.
- WHO has also worked to support the integration of mental health and psychosocial assistance across all aspects of the global reaction throughout the pandemic.
- Member States have recognized COVID-19’s importance to mental health and taken steps.
- According to the most recent WHO pulse survey on the continuity of essential healthcare services, 90 percent of countries strive to offer mental health and psychosocial support to COVID-19 patients and responders.
Furthermore, in their yearly meeting, nations stressed the importance of developing and improving mental health and psychosocial support services to enhance preparedness, response, and resilience to COVID-19 and future public health crises. They adopted the most recent Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030, including a criterion for mental health and psychosocial support preparedness in public healthcare scenarios.
Step up investment
However, to safeguard mental health, we must also increase investment worldwide. Unfortunately, the example highlights a persistent worldwide scarcity of mental health services today. In 2020, governments worldwide will spend approximately 2% of their health budgets on mental health. According to the most recent Mental Health Atlas published by WHO, many low-income countries had less than one mental health worker per 100 000 people.
“While the pandemic has generated interest in and concern for mental health, it has also highlighted a historic lack of investment in mental health services,” according to Dévora Kestel, Director of the World Health Organization’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Use. “Countries must act swiftly to ensure that all people access mental health care.