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Global Covid-19 deaths top 300k amid mental health warning

“The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil - they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” said Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mental health department.

Updated: May 15, 2020 08:32 IST

By Agencies, London

Emerging surveys are showing Covid-19’s impact on mental health globally. (Reuters file photo )

A mental illness crisis is looming as millions of people worldwide are surrounded by death and disease and forced into isolation, poverty and anxiety by the Covid-19 pandemic, United Nations health experts said on Thursday.

“The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil - they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” said Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mental health department.

The UN’s observation came as the worldwide death toll from the coronavirus disease crossed 300,000 on Thursday, according to Worldometer. Over 4.4 million people have been infected.

Presenting a UN report and policy guidance on Covid-19 and mental health, Kestel said an upsurge in the number and severity of mental illnesses is likely, and governments should put the issue “front and centre” of their responses.



“The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently,” she said.

The report highlighted several regions and sections of societies as vulnerable to mental distress - including children and young people isolated from friends and school, health care workers who are seeing thousands of patients infected with and dying from the new coronavirus.

Emerging surveys are showing Covid-19’s impact on mental health globally. Psychologists say children are anxious and increases in cases of depression and anxiety have been recorded in many countries. Domestic violence is rising, and health workers are reporting an increased need for psychological support.

Reuters last week reported from interviews with doctors and nurses in the US who said either they or their colleagues had experienced a combination of panic, anxiety, grief, numbness, irritability, insomnia and nightmares.

Outside of the health sector, the WHO report said many people are distressed by the immediate health impacts and the consequences of physical isolation, while many others are afraid of infection, dying, and losing family members.

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