The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide while the demand for mental health is increasing, according to a new WHO survey.
WHO has previously highlighted the chronic underfunding of mental health: prior to the pandemic, countries were spending less than 2 per cent of their national health budgets on mental health, and struggling to meet their populations’ needs.
And the pandemic is increasing demand for mental health services. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. Meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection ̶ they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death.
After disasters, most people are resilient and do not succumb to psychopathology. Indeed, some people find new strengths. Nevertheless, in “conventional” natural disasters, technological accidents, and intentional acts of mass destruction, a primary concern is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) arising from exposure to trauma. Medical conditions from natural causes such as life-threatening viral infection do not meet the current criteria for trauma required for a diagnosis of PTSD, but other psychopathology, such as depressive and anxiety disorders, may ensue.
Some groups may be more vulnerable than others to the psychosocial effects of pandemics. In particular, people who contract the disease, those at heightened risk for it (including the elderly, people with compromised immune function, and those living or receiving care in congregate settings), and people with preexisting medical, psychiatric, or substance use problems are at increased risk for adverse psychosocial outcomes. Health care providers are also particularly vulnerable to emotional distress in the current pandemic, given their risk of exposure to the virus, concern about infecting and caring for their loved ones, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), longer work hours, and involvement in emotionally and ethically fraught resource-allocation decisions. Prevention efforts such as screening for mental health problems, psychoeducation, and psychosocial support should focus on these and other groups at risk for adverse psychosocial outcomes.
Beyond stresses inherent in the illness itself, mass home-confinement directives (including stay-at-home orders, quarantine, and isolation) are new to Americans and raise concern about how people will react individually and collectively. A recent review of psychological sequelae in samples of quarantined people and of health care providers may be instructive; it revealed numerous emotional outcomes, including stress, depression, irritability, insomnia, fear, confusion, anger, frustration, boredom, and stigma associated with quarantine, some of which persisted after the quarantine was lifted. Specific stressors included greater duration of confinement, having inadequate supplies, difficulty securing medical care and medications, and resulting financial losses.
In order to ensure that you and your loved ones must not face any mental health issues or recover from the position they already are in, it is important to consult an expert from the field.
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