Health Care

COVID-19 "increasing psychological suffering"


A new deputy chief medical officer, former Victorian chief psychiatrist Dr Ruth Vine, has also been appointed to help steer the National Cabinet's response to mental health issues from the pandemic.

Ahead of the upcoming World Health Assembly in Geneva, UN Secretary-General in a video message launching a policy briefing on Wednesday urged the worldwide community to do much more to protect all those facing mounting mental pressures.

Economic recessions severely impact the mental health of citizens and the national cabinet unanimously supported assigning funds to address this in Australia.

The week, which runs from Monday, is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation and highlights the need for us all to look after our minds as well as our bodies.

The increase in people in need of mental health or psychosocial support has been compounded by the interruption to physical and mental health services in many countries.

"The impact of the pandemic on people's mental health is already extremely concerning", WHO Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news release Thursday.

Issues youngsters are facing include: anxiety and depression, a sense of loss and fear, difficulties coping with a lack of structure and routine, increased isolation and young people missing face-to-face contact with friends, charity YoungMinds said.

He called on governments, civil society, health authorities and others to "come together urgently to address the mental health dimension of this pandemic", emphasising that even when the pandemic ends, grief, anxiety and depression will remain.

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COVID-19 is increasing psychological suffering around the world and mental health services "must be expanded and fully funded" to deal with this, the secretary general of the United Nations (UN) has insisted.

Isolation in lockdown is thought to be a factor that will contribute to poor mental health. So one of the most important things is to provide mental health support. This suffering is often exacerbated by stigma and discrimination.

Hunt explained the response plan will cover three areas: $7.3 million for research and data into what is happening in real time, $29.5 million for outreach programs to vulnerable communities - the elderly, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, Indigenous Australians, and those with pre-existing medical conditions -, and 11.3 million dollars will go to communication and outreach programs.

All this is understandable, given the many uncertainties facing people, the United Nations policy brief notes, before identifying the growing use of addictive coping strategies, including alcohol, drugs, tobacco and online gaming.

Along with women, they also face a heightened risk of domestic abuse as people spend lengthy amounts of time cooped up at home.

The report also identifies children as an at-risk group.

Social isolation, reduced physical activity and reduced intellectual stimulation increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults, it adds.

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