The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Wednesday that the Covid-19 pandemic is causing a dramatic rise in the incidence of anxiety and sadness, which is mostly due to social isolation. The most vulnerable are young people and women.
According to a WHO scientific brief, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression soared by a stunning 25% in the first year of the epidemic. According to the Xinhua news agency, ninety percent of the countries polled incorporated mental health and psychosocial support in their Covid-19 reaction plans, but serious gaps and worries remain.
Unprecedented stress has been caused by the social isolation resulting from the pandemic, the WHO said. This constrained people’s ability to work, seek support from loved ones and engage in their communities. Exhaustion has been a major trigger for suicidal thinking among health workers.
“The information we have now about the impact of Covid-19 on the world’s mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.”
The WHO brief said that young people, whose mental health has been affected by Covid-19, are disproportionally at risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviours.
Women have been hit harder than males, and persons with pre-existing physical health illnesses like asthma, cancer, or heart disease are more likely to experience mental-health symptoms after contracting Covid-19.
The epidemic has wreaked havoc on mental health systems throughout the world, creating vast gaps in care for people who most need it.
Despite the fact that the situation had improved significantly by the end of 2021, far too many people are still unable to receive the care and assistance they require for both pre-existing and newly established mental health issues.
The WHO’s most recent “Mental Health Atlas” showed that in 2020, governments worldwide spent on average just over two percent of their health budgets on mental health, and many low-income countries reported having fewer than one mental health worker per 100,000 people.
Covid-19 has “revealed historical under-investment in mental health services. Countries must act urgently to ensure that mental health support is available to all,” said Devora Kestel, director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use at the WHO.