WHO warns pandemic will scar generations for years

Geneva, May 14 (efe-epa).- Countries should do more to protect people from the mounting mental pressures caused by the pandemic, the World Health Organization warned on Thursday.

In a report on policy guidance on Covid-19 and mental health, the United Nations-backed body warned that if countries neglect mental health there could be a rise in suicides and disorders and said psychological help should be central to virus response mechanisms.

“The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently,” Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mental health department, said.

“The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil – they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” the doctor added at a virtual press conference.

Depression and anxiety before the coronavirus pandemic cost the global economy more than $ 1 trillion per year, according to the UN.

This cost could spiral as a result of the immense suffering of hundreds of millions of people the report warned.

The uncertainties people are facing globally, including economic precariousness and loss of loved ones, means “many people who previously coped well, are now less able to cope because of the multiple stressors generated by the pandemic,” the UN warned referencing a study from The Lancet Commission On Global Mental Health And Sustainable Development.

Despite the risks, mental health needs are not getting the attention they require and a lack of prevention and investment in this area before the pandemic is exacerbating psychological distress globally.

Kestel said the most at risk were: “frontline healthcare workers, older people, adolescents and young people, those with pre-existing mental health conditions and those caught up in conflict and crisis. We must help them and stand by them.”

An increase in the prevalence of distress has been detected globally with a 35 percent increase in China, 60 percent in Iran and 40 percent in the United States, three of the worst affected countries by the pandemic which has killed 285,000 and infected over four million worldwide.

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