93% of countries worldwide have seen critical mental health services disrupted or stopped due to Covid-19, finds WHO survey

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15th October 2020 12:03 - Health

93% of countries worldwide have seen critical mental health services disrupted or stopped due to Covid-19: A global survey by the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that the vast majority of countries polled have seen their critical mental health services disrupted or stopped altogether, due to the ongoing battle against Covid-19.

The survey included responses from 130 countries and is the first global data showing the impact of the pandemic on mental health services. 

It found that six out of 10 countries have reported disruption to services for vulnerable people, including children and adolescents (72%), older adults (70%) and women who need antenatal and postnatal support (61%). 

Two-thirds of the respondents polled said they have experienced disruptions to counselling and psychotherapy, while slightly fewer (65%) have seen disruptions to critical harm reduction services. Just under half the countries polled (45%) said they have seen a decline in opioid agonist maintenance treatment (OAT) for opioid dependence, while 35% have seen disruptions to emergency interventions. 

Three out of 10 countries (30%) said they have seen disruption when trying to access medications needed to treat mental, neurological and substance use disorders. 

Disruptions have also occurred in the majority of schools and workplaces, according to the findings, with 78% of respondents saying their country has experienced at least partial disruptions to schools, while three-quarters (75%) have seen disruption within the workplace.

Telemedicine and teletherapy

Seven out of 10 countries polled (70%) have introduced telemedicine or teletherapy to help reduce the impact of disruptions to face-to-face services, however this varied greatly between high and low income countries, the research found.

While 80% of high-income countries reported implementing telemedicine or teletherapy, just half of low-income countries polled (50%) said the same. 

Funding was also revealed to be an obstacle, with just 17% of the countries polled saying they have full additional funding for mental health and psychosocial support, despite 89% saying that their national Covid-19 response plan is to provide these services. 

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