According to the latest WHO findings, the critical mental health services in 93% of the countries worldwide have been affected or halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This data was collected from 130 countries, which all provided data showed the devastating impact of the disease based on how access to mental health services has been affected. That being said, it underlines the need for an urgent increase in funding.
This finding was published ahead of their Big Event for Mental Health (this is a global online advocacy event that was held on 10 October, which brought world leaders, advocates, and celebrities together to call for the increase of mental health investment following the impact COVID-19 had on the world).
WHO highlighted the serious underfunding of mental health – even before the pandemic, countries worldwide spent less than 2% of their national health budget on mental health.
Today, the pandemic has increased the demand for mental health services. This is mainly because of the fear, loss of income, isolation, and grief from losing loved ones to the pandemic. These factors are triggers to mental health conditions and worsen the condition to those who are already experiencing mental problems. As a result, many people may begin to experience anxiety, insomnia, or drug and alcohol use, and will need services such as counselling or sex addiction therapy. In the meantime, Corona Virus itself can lead to mental and neurological complications like stroke, agitation, and delirium.
On the other hand, persons with pre-existing neurological, mental, or substance use disorder are more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 Infections (this simply means that they are at a high risk of experiencing severe outcomes and may lead to death).
The Director-General of WHO (World Health Organisation), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that good mental health is unquestionably essential to a person’s overall well-being or health. He continued to say that the CORONA Virus pandemic has affected the important mental health service worldwide, just as it is needed the most. Therefore, he urged world leaders to move fast and resolutely to increase funds and programs for life-saving mental health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All this came about after a survey was conducted to show the COVID-19 pandemic impact based on how it affects the health sector and service. This survey took place from June to August 2020, and it involved 130 countries across WHO’s 6 regions. The aim was to evaluate how neurological, mental, and substance use services have been affected because of the CORONA pandemic. The research was used to further understand the types of health services that have been disrupted and how different countries are trying to overcome these challenges.
The research showed that many services were disrupted, including many kinds of mental health services. Below are the findings:
• 67% of the countries experience disruption to psychotherapy and counselling services; 45% to opioid agonist treatment for opioid dependence; and 65% to critical harm reduction services.
• Over 60% of the countries reported disruption to mental health services for vulnerable people, including the children. In fact, the numbers were as follows 72% for children and young adults, 70% for young adults, and 61% for women needing antenatal or postnatal services.
• 35% of the countries reported disruption to emergency interventions, including people with severe substance withdrawal symptoms, prolonged seizures, and even delirium. All these are signs of severe mental condition.
• 30% of the countries reported disruptions to access medication for neurological, mental, and substance use conditions.
• ¾ of the countries reported partial disruptions to the workplace and school mental health services. In fact, the numbers were as follows 75% for workplace health services and 78% for school workplace mental health services
• Although 70% of the countries adopted tele-therapy or telemedicine to combat some of the challenges, this brought several disparities with it. The report showed that more than 80% of high-income countries reported adopting this method compared to less than 50% of low-income countries.
• Although 89% of the countries that participated in the survey mentioned that psychological and mental health support was very important and part of COVID-19 response plans, only 17% of the countries have additional funds to cover these services.
WHO has already issued guidance to countries on maintaining essential services, including mental health services during this pandemic. Furthermore, the organisation recommends that countries allocate resources for mental health because it is an important component in the response and recovery plan. The countries were advised to monitor changes and disruptions in the services so that they can be addressed efficiently.