Loneliness, isolation and financial worries were cited as factors related to the rise in anxiety and depression.
Global statistics of anxiety and depression have risen by 25% in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a scientific brief issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The information we have now about the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
Dr. Ghebreyesus continued, “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.”
According to WHO, “One major explanation for the increase is the unprecedented stress caused by the social isolation resulting from the pandemic. Linked to this were constraints on people’s ability to work, seek support from loved ones and engage in their communities.”
“Loneliness, fear of infection, suffering and death for oneself and for loved ones, grief after bereavement and financial worries have also all been cited as stressors leading to anxiety and depression. Among health workers, exhaustion has been a major trigger for suicidal thinking,” the WHO stated.
The WHO also suggests that people with more severe mental disorders, especially young people, are particularly at risk. Overall, children and young people appear to be the most impacted with suicide rates up approximately 50% compared to pre-pandemic statistics.
Severe disruptions to mental health services and substance abuse services were also key contributing factors, said one WHO member.
Many life-saving services and mental health facilities, including suicide prevention, were closed down due to fear of COVID-19, leaving many patients to suffer on their own — Leading to increased rates of depression, domestic violence, drug abuse, overall crime and suicide.
“While the pandemic has generated interest in and concern for mental health, it has also revealed historical under-investment in mental health services. Countries must act urgently to ensure that mental health support is available to all,” said Dévora Kestel, director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use.
World health experts suggest this should be a wake-up call to all countries to step up mental health services and support. Let’s hope this will be a lesson for our politicians and unelected “experts” in the future.
Some may argue that the pandemic response which included in-home lockdowns, shuttered businesses, job losses, closed schools, social isolation, nursing home neglect and more, were much more harmful than the virus itself would have been.