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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

COVID-19 affects mental health, says ICRC

COVID-19 affects mental well-being of one in two persons says ICRC

MANILA – The Geneva-based International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement today said half of the respondents, 51 percent, in a seven-country survey revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.

In a survey conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross, it was learned how the pandemic is adding an extraordinary level of stress and suffering on communities around the world. The survey was released a couple of days before the celebration of World Mental Health Day this coming Saturday, October 10.

According to their report “The greatest need was to be listened to: The importance of mental health and psychosocial support during COVID-19,” the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement revealed how the outbreak has worsened existing mental health conditions, triggering new ones, and making access to mental health services even more scarce. It calls for urgent and increased funding for mental health and psychosocial support alongside humanitarian responses.

“The COVID-19 health crisis has exacerbated the psychological distress of millions of people already living through conflicts and disasters. Lockdown restrictions, a loss of social interaction, and economic pressures are all impacting people’s mental health and access to care,” said Robert Mardini, the ICRC director-general.

He added mental health is just as important as physical health, especially in crisis situations, when mental health needs are specially critical.

The same report also underscores the urgent mental health needs of those who have been on the frontline of the pandemic, from medical staff to volunteers, community workers, social workers, dead body collectors, community leaders and many others. Three in four respondents to the ICRC survey, 73%, said that frontline health workers and first responders have more need for mental health support than the average person.

“They are often directly exposed to COVID-19, work long hours, and are invariably subject to stressful events and stigma when supporting disaster-affected communities. They need access to support and care to ensure they can continue to care appropriately for others,” the ICRC statement said.

According to Jagan Chapagan, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, mental health programs are some of the least expensive interventions in humanitarian response but they have a lifesaving and priceless impact on the lives of people who truly need them.

He called for ore investments in mental health and psychosocial support for everyone, from communities to carers alike, to help people cope, rebuild their lives and thrived trough the crisis.

The IFRC said governments should ensure early and sustained access to mental health and psychosocial support services for people affected by the pandemic, integration of the mental health and psychosocial support in all responses addressing the needs due to the pandemic and prioritizing protection of the mental health and wellbeing of staff and volunteers responding to the humanitarian needs of the pandemic.

In the Philippines, the ICRC conducted Helping the Helpers sessions where hospital staff and other frontline workers benefitted from self-care sessions and training on basic MHPSS care provision. A group of 165 health staff and frontline workers from different institutions in Mindanao, including detention authorities in Metro Manila, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology staff responsible for management of COVID-19 in their isolation facilities took part.

According to the ICRC in the Philippines, their MHPSS program for victims of violence, specifically from the Marawi crisis, supported over 1,100 people who include distressed individuals, their families and their communities. They also trained 34 health care workers in Lanao del Sur on Basic Psychology Care with periodic monitoring and reinforcement trainings planned to strengthen their delivery of MHPSS services to the general public. (Melo M. Acuña)

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