COVID-19 disrupting mental health services in most countries: WHO survey

By Liu Qu

GENEVA, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93 percent of countries, according to a survey released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday.

The survey, conducted from June to August among 130 countries across the WHO' six regions, evaluates how the provision of mental, neurological and substance use services has changed due to COVID-19, the types of services that have been disrupted, and how countries are adapting to overcome these challenges.

It shows that over 60 percent of the surveyed reported disruptions to mental health services for vulnerable people, more than a third reported disruptions to emergency interventions, and about three-quarters reported at least partial disruptions to school and workplace mental health services.

Although 89 percent of the countries reported that mental health and psycho-social support is part of their national COVID-19 response plans, only 17 percent have full additional funding for covering these activities.

While many countries (70 percent) have adopted telemedicine and teletherapy to overcome disruptions to in-person services, there are significant disparities in the uptake of such interventions. More than 80 percent of high-income countries reported deploying these services, compared with less than 50 percent of low-income countries.

WHO highlights the need for more money for mental health, as the continuing pandemic may lead to even greater demand for national and international mental health programs that have suffered from years of under-funding.

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