COVID-19 Disrupting Mental Health Services Globally: WHO Survey

2 min read
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According to WHO, the services provided to mentally ill and substance abuse patients have been put to a pause worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, as reported by Reuters.

“We think that this is a forgotten aspect of COVID-19, in a sense part of the challenges that we face is that this is an under-funded area historically.”
Dévora Kestel, director ofWHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Use

An approximate 7% of the total 130 countries that took part in WHO’s survey reported having all mental health services open. On the other hand, 93% out of them reported that services for a variety of disorders have been curtailed.


Kestel also said that merely 17% of the countries had ensured additional funding to implement activities supporting growing mental health needs during the pandemic.

Nations around the world reported widespread disruption of many kinds of critical mental health services:

  • Over 60% reported disruptions to mental health services for vulnerable people, including children and adolescents (72%), older adults (70%), and women requiring antenatal or postnatal services (61%).
  • 67% saw disruptions to counseling and psychotherapy; 65% to critical harm reduction services; and 45% to opioid agonist maintenance treatment for opioid dependence.
  • More than a third (35%) 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% reported disruptions to access for medications for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.
  • Around three-quarters reported at least partial disruptions to school and workplace mental health services (78% and 75% respectively).

Even if the countries kept their services open, patients were still met with a series of difficulties. Travel restrictions were stated as the most common hurdle in 73 per cent of the low-income countries. In middle and high-income countries, community-based and outpatient services took a hit.

However, the richer countries have made use of alternative services to ensure getting a follow-upon their patients.

It is to be noted that WHO didn’t collect any data on life-threatening consequences such as higher suicide rates or epileptic seizures and so on.

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