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Global Mental Health Services Are Collapsing as Demand Grows

Global Mental Health Services Are Collapsing as Demand Grows Bridget M. Kuehn, MSJ, November 2020, Jama

“COVID-19 has interrupted essential mental health services around the world just when they’re needed most,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. “World leaders must move fast and decisively to invest more in life-saving mental health programs—during the pandemic and beyond.” The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted mental health, neurological, and substance abuse services in 93% of 130 countries surveyed by the World Health Organization (WHO). About one-third of the countries reported disruptions in life-saving emergency services. Forty percent of countries reported full or partial closure of outpatient or community-based services. The statistics are particularly alarming because mental health conditions can be worsened by pandemic-related stressors such as grief over the loss of loved ones, isolation, increased substance use as a coping mechanism, and financial concerns. Patients with COVID-19 also may develop a range of mental health or neurological complications. More than 80% of high-income countries reported turning to telemedicine or telephone helplines to help fill their gaps in care. However, less than 50% of low-income countries reported doing so.

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