CAPE TOWN – Prior to the pandemic, countries were spending less than two percent of their national health budgets on mental health, and struggling to meet their populations’ needs, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
An estimated 400 million people worldwide suffer from mental or neurological disorders or from psychosocial problems. While the demand for mental health services increased as a result of the pandemic. Only 7 percent of the 130 countries reported that all mental health services were fully open, according to a WHO survey.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization said: “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.”
Countries reported widespread disruption of many kinds of critical mental health services:
- Over 60 percent reported disruptions to mental health services for vulnerable people, including children and adolescents (72 percent), older adults (70 percent), and women requiring antenatal or postnatal services (61 percent).
- 67 percent saw disruptions to counseling and psychotherapy; 65 percent to critical harm reduction services; and 45 percent to opioid agonist maintenance treatment for opioid dependence.
- More than a third (35 percent) reported disruptions to emergency interventions, including those for people experiencing prolonged seizures; severe substance use withdrawal syndromes; and delirium, often a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.
- 30 percent reported disruptions to access medications for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.
- Around three-quarters reported at least partial disruptions to school and workplace mental health services (78percent and 75 percent respectively).
The survey was published ahead of WHO’s Big Event for Mental Health ̶ a global online advocacy event on 10 October that will bring together world leaders, celebrities, and advocates to call for increased mental health investments in the wake of Covid-19.
The Big Event is free and open to the public and will be broadcast on 10 October from 16:00 to 19:00 CEST on WHO’s YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and LinkedIn channels and website.
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