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  • Marshlee Eugene

Mental Health Services During the Covid-19 Pandemic

As defined by the World Health Organization, health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In the past, mental health

has received little attention due to the negative stigma surrounding it in various cultures and religions. Thus, individuals with mental health disorders were afraid to disclose their disorder publicly and speak about their symptoms. However, over time, mental health has played a more prominent role in public health discussions. As mental health issues and disorders become more “acceptable” in society, more people are becoming officially diagnosed with mental health disorders. Unfortunately, this increase in diagnoses has created a substantial gap between the supply and demand of mental health treatment services across the globe.

Prior to the pandemic, mental health resources were strained, and a major contributor to this was a lack of adequate funding. Globally, government health budgets only included an average of approximately 2% for mental health services in recent years. This problem was only exacerbated during the pandemic, as job loss, economic insecurity, isolation, and the staggering amount of death witnessed by essential workers worsened the mental health state of many individuals. As explained by The Lancet, an estimated 53.2 million additional cases of major depressive disorder and 76.2 million additional cases of anxiety disorders were diagnosed during the COVID-19 pandemic. With such an increase in diagnosed mental disorders, more treatment options and services were a necessity both during and after the pandemic. However, many treatment services were partially or fully disrupted by the onslaught of the pandemic. In a 2020 survey, the World Health Organization found that over 78 countries reported disruptions to mental health services for vulnerable people during the pandemic. Although the pandemic seems to be ending now and life appears to be returning back to normal, many individuals are still suffering from mental health disorders that developed or became more severe during the pandemic. Moreover, with the impending threat of more COVID-19 variants, it’s possible that another pandemic could take place, which would only worsen the already fragile mental health state of individuals across the globe. Thus, it is necessary to take steps to decrease the treatment gap for mental health disorders right now.

One relatively effective method to treat mental health issues that has been growing in popularity is telehealth medicine. In short, telehealth medicine is a remote way to deliver patient care, monitoring, and treatment. It became widely popular during the pandemic as it eliminated the need for face-to-face contact between doctors and patients. Overall, telehealth medicine helped decrease the spread of the virus by keeping hospitals below capacity, reducing the likelihood of transmission in hospitals. While telehealth medicine was an important advancement, it is also important to recognize that not everybody is able to benefit from such services. Namely, people in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC) may not have the resources needed to not only operate telehealth systems but get people to attend telehealth appointments. As such, more research needs to be conducted in order to develop more equitable ways to streamline mental health services, but this can only be done if governments increase funding for all mental health services and treatments.


Edited by: Anne Sacks

Graphic Designed by: Eugene Cho


References

  1. “The widened gap in mental health services during the pandemic,” The Lancet, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanwpc/article/PIIS2666-6065(21)00229-7/fulltext.

  2. “The widened gap in mental health services during the pandemic,” The Lancet, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanwpc/article/PIIS2666-6065(21)00229-7/fulltext.

  3. “Global prevalence and burden of depressive and anxiety disorders in 204 countries and territories in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” NIH National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34634250/.

  4. “Global prevalence and burden of depressive and anxiety disorders in 204 countries and territories in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” NIH National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34634250/.

  5. “Telehealth and Telemedicine during COVID-19 in Low Resource Non-U.S. Settings,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/global-covid-19/telehealth-covid19-nonUS.html.



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