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Author: Carlie Porterfield, Forbes
Coronavirus has spawned a new healthcare crisis as many services for treating mental health have been disrupted all over the world, all while the pandemic has worsened many people’s emotional health, according to a report from the World Health Organization.
The WHO found in a survey released Monday that 60% of countries worldwide had experienced interruptions for vulnerable populations, like children and adolescents, the elderly and pregnant women or new mothers.
The most common services that have been interrupted were therapy and counseling sessions, followed by harm reduction services like syringe programs and peer support, and then maintenance treatment for opioid addiction, the WHO said.
As many workplaces stay shuttered and in-person classes remain cancelled in many countries, the mental health resources provided there have become more inaccessible for three-quarters of workers and students, the report found.
These hurdles in obtaining services comes as many people are experiencing increased levels of isolation and grief stemming from the pandemic, as well as often facing losses of income that can lead to anxiety, drug and alcohol use and insomnia, according to the WHO.
While 70% of countries reported trying to fill the gaps in care with telemedicine or virtual appointments, there’s a major break between rich and poor countries—while more than 80% of wealthy nations said they had adopted telemedicine, less than half of low-income countries could say the same.
The WHO report follows a disturbing Centers for Disease Control survey that this summer found one in four young Americans said they had considered committing suicide in June.
“Good mental health is absolutely fundamental to overall health and well-being,” said the World Health Organization’s director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement. “COVID-19 has interrupted essential mental health services around the world just when they’re needed most. World leaders must move fast and decisively to invest more in life-saving mental health programmes ̶ during the pandemic and beyond.”
The WHO argues these findings underscore the need for more countries to dedicate more funding for mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. While nearly 90% of nations said support for emotional health was part of their pandemic strategy plans, only 17% reported having funding earmarked to totally cover their pursuits. Mental health programs were already chronically underfunded before the pandemic, according to the WHO, which is encouraging nations to up their spending to help citizens during the coronavirus crisis. The WHO study surveyed 130 countries over June and August.
The WHO estimates that pre-coronavirus pandemic, the United States lost $1 trillion in economic productivity each year because of workers’ depression and anxiety.