The World Health Organization (WHO) warned today of the consequences for mental health that the coronavirus is having in the world and those that it will have in the future, with a possible increase in suicides and disorders, and urged governments not to neglect psychological care.
“The current situation, with isolation, fear, uncertainty and economic crisis, can cause psychological disorders”, Devora Kestel, director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse of the WHO, warned in a digital press conference.
The coronavirus pandemic exceeds 297,000 deaths with more than 4.3 million cases worldwide
This body considers probable “a long-term increase in the number and severity of mental health problems” from the “immense suffering of hundreds of millions of people” and the long-term economic and social costs for the population.
Despite the risk, and probably due to the magnitude of the crisis, mental health needs “are not receiving the attention they require”, something that is exacerbated by the lack of investment and prevention in this area before the arrival of the pandemic .
The groups most at risk, says Kestel, are “health workers and first responders, with the anxiety and stress they are experiencing, children and adolescents, women at risk of domestic violence, the elderly, due to the risk of being infected, people with pre-existing mental conditions or other illnesses, it is more difficult to continue receiving treatment. “
Although COVID-19 is a physical health crisis, he points out, “The impact on mental health is significant and could lead to greater difficulties if not addressed correctly.”
For this reason, WHO urges countries not to neglect this type of care, study the needs of all sectors and ensure that psychological support is available as part of essential services.
An increase in the prevalence of anxiety has been detected, for example by 35% in China, 60% in Iran or 40% in the United States, three of the countries most affected by the pandemic, which has already caused more than 285,000 dead and more than four million people in the world infected.
Specifically in the health workers sector, A Canadian study shows that almost half of them, 47%, declared that they need psychological support, while in China 50% suffer from depression, 45% anxiety, and 34% insomnia.
“The figures are there”, warns this Argentine psychologist, who remembers that in places of conflict around 1 in 5 people suffer from mental disorders, data that could be achieved in this crisis if measures are not put in place to relieve, accompany and give support to those who need it.
Dr. Fahmy Hanna, a technical official from the same WHO department, also warns of the stigma that health workers are suffering in some countries, behaviors that governments must confront “with information and communication and, also, publicly honoring the work they do. “
Kestel recommends that governments act with empathy and take into account the impact that measures to deal with the crisis are having on the population. For example, one of the most widespread is the fact that minors stay at home and it is the parents who bear the burden of education and permanent care, often compatible with their own telework, creating new tensions and challenges for them. the families.
The authorities have to think about how to make minors, the elderly and people with cognitive difficulties understand what is happening, they have to design alternative ways of reaching those who are alone at home and guarantee that those who live in nursing homes keep in touch with their families and receive the necessary explanations.
Although the WHO does not yet have figures on global trends, it is following the information that is being given in several countries about an increase in suicide attempts or substance abuse, it remembers that it is something that occurred after the economic crisis of 2008 and warns that “we could see something like this in the coming months.”
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