We need to address this now
Updated: 2 days ago
The 3am diaries by CEO & Founder, Lucy Bennett-Baggs
COVID-19 has affected so many of us in so many different ways. Whether it’s battling the illness ourselves, losing a loved one, being separated from family, closing a business or losing a job, I don’t think there’s an individual globally that hasn’t been affected by this harrowing pandemic. Such impact on our lives inevitably challenges our mental wellbeing.
Last week the World Health Organisation (WHO) called for global action on Covid-linked anxiety and stress- announcing that the impact of the pandemic on our mental health will likely be severe, ‘long term and far-reaching’.
What is clear, is that the pandemic’s far-reaching devastation could raise the risk of mental health issues for almost everyone. For a few, the feelings of anxiety and depression that emerged during the pandemic will initially resolve as routines resume, however the hard part is still to come, as we face a set of new or worse mental health issues that persist or even appear later down the road and given the magnitude of despair and disruption- these are likely to be severe.
“In the best of times, there is untreated mental illness,” said Susan Borja, the Chief of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Dimensional Traumatic Stress Research Program in the US. “Even a small increase in the rates of people with new or worsening mental illness is going to be a problem, but this will be the entire world”.
And just like with the virus itself, the psychological damage won’t be borne equally. Mental Health experts say they worry about communities that were already more vulnerable to mental health issues, including LGBTQIA+ people and those who are the victims of domestic violence, as well as communities that the virus and subsequent economic fallout has struck hardest.
Yet according to a 2020 WHO report, only 2% of global health budgets are allocated to address mental health and in lower-income countries less than USD 2 is spent per person on mental health annually. So why is so little attention given to mental health care, when even before COVID-19 1 in 4 people were affected? And why has it taken an extreme situation such as this, for people to realise how globally ill-equipped we are in identifying and treating the issues and erasing the stigmas associated?
“It should have been a priority before the pandemic, it needs to be a priority now,” said Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University.
So, let’s be clear about the enormity of the mental health challenges that lie ahead - as to truly drive this change we need to summon the spirit of solidarity which saw us come together for healthcare workers all around the world, and tackle the stigma, discrimination, punitive legislation and human rights abuses head on.
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