Britain and other pandemic-hit countries are facing a looming mental health crisis as a result of coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
Citing a UN report on the global impact of COVID-19 and mental health, WHO mental health director Devora Kestel said that death, isolation and anxiety were factors that will affect wellbeing.
She said: “The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil – they all cause or could cause psychological distress…
“The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently.”
Kestel said that governments across the globe must now put mental health at the “front and centre” of their responses to the pandemic.
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The WHO report states that uncertainty about the economy and livelihoods after lockdown has ended will only add to people’s fears about the their future.
It recommends governments invest more in psychological services and to provide remote therapies for frontline health workers during the crisis.
The warning comes as a new poll from YoungMinds suggests parents are “deeply worried” about the mental health of their children as a result of the pandemic.
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.
Many parents and carers also expressed concerns about how their children would cope as they “transition back to normal”.
The charity’s survey of 1,854 parents and carers from across the UK found that 67% said they were concerned about the long-term impact of the coronavirus on their child’s mental health.
This rose to 77% among parents and carers whose children had required mental health support in the previous three months.
YoungMinds has called for action to limit the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of young people.
Emma Thomas, chief executive of YoungMinds, said: “Many young people are finding it hard to cope with isolation, a loss of routine, anxiety about the future, a disruption to their education, and in some cases, difficult or traumatic experiences at home.
“Despite huge efforts from mental health professionals, young people with existing mental health needs often can’t get the same level of support as they had before the crisis.
“As our survey shows, many parents and carers are deeply worried about the long-term impact of the pandemic on the young people in their care, and don’t know where to turn for advice and support.
“That’s why the government needs to take action, to make sure that support is available for young people and families who need it, now and as we emerge from the pandemic.”