The mental health impact of the coronavirus pandemic is “already extremely worrying,” says the UN

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Frontline workers' mental health at risk due to pandemic

“The impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health is already extremely worrying,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press release Thursday.

During the pandemic, 47% of healthcare workers in Canada reported the need for psychological support; 50% of health workers in the People’s Republic of China reported depression; and 42% of health workers in Pakistan reported moderate psychological distress and 26% of severe psychological distress, according to a new United Nations political document released Thursday.

In Italy and Spain, parents reported that while in prison during the pandemic, 77% of the children had difficulty concentrating; 39% have restlessness and irritability; 38% have nervousness; and 31% of feelings of loneliness, according to the brief.

In addition, a study of young people with a history of mental health needs living in the UK found that 32% of them reported that the pandemic had worsened their mental health.

Overall, the brief notes that national surveys conducted this year show that almost half – 45% – of people in the United States reported distress during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Social isolation, fear of contagion and loss of family members are aggravated by the anguish caused by loss of income and often by employment,” said Tedros.

“It is now very clear that mental health needs must be treated as a key element of our response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tedros.

“This is a collective responsibility of governments and civil society, with the support of the entire United Nations system. A failure to take people’s emotional well-being seriously will lead to long-term social and economic costs for society.”

The brief calls for emergency mental health services and psychosocial support to be made widely available.

It recommends investments in mental health interventions that can be delivered remotely, ensuring uninterrupted personal assistance to serious mental health conditions and ensuring that mental health is part of universal health coverage, among other recommendations.

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