IT IS a complication of the Covid-19 crisis. Whatever limited access people had to mental health care has been diminished by this pandemic. Yet this pandemic has given rise to cases of depression, anxiety and panic.
Before the declaration of a coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, access to affordable and quality mental health care was already limited in poor and middle-income countries. In the area of public health, mental health services did not share the same standing as the campaign against dengue or malaria. Then the pandemic hit and government resources were redirected to addressing the Covid-19 crisis.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the care of persons dealing with depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Resources are fewer but the pandemic is giving rise to more cases of individuals needing professional care. Studies have shown that the lockdowns and movement restrictions have made more people anxious about their future, and the absence of social contact or inability to play outside in the case of children can have lasting effects on their mental well-being.
There is also the matter of some Covid-19 survivors having to deal with panic or anxiety disorders as they go through the long recovery period. They suffer insomnia, anxiety, depression and, in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder. They need not only medication but also treatment by counselors or psychiatrists. Medical insurance companies do not cover consultations with psychiatrists and sessions can run to P1,000 to P2,000 each.
The contradiction is that mental health resources have been diminished due to a re-prioritizing of health budgets during the pandemic but it is the pandemic that is causing an increase in cases needing the resources for mental health care. The WHO emphasized this when it called for “a massive scale-up in investment in mental health.”
“Mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health. Close to one billion people are living with a mental disorder; three million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. And now, billions of people around the world have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people’s mental health,” the WHO said.
It will kick off this month a campaign to encourage public action around the world on the theme “Move for mental health: let’s invest.” The campaign will end with a global online activity to mark World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10.
Countries spend on average only two percent of their health budgets on mental health. The WHO wants governments to set aside a bigger slice of the budget. It also called on the private sector to participate by conducting wellness programs for their employees to help in their mental well-being.
The pandemic has affected many aspects of daily life. But there is little said and done about the people’s psychosocial wellness.