UNITED NATIONS, May 13 (Xinhua) -- United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for attention to mental health problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this file photo taken on April 17, 2020, a homeless wearing a protective mask lies asleep on the pavement in Rome's central Piazza Venezia. (Photo: AFP)
Noting that "the COVID-19 virus is not only attacking our physical health, it is also increasing psychological suffering," the UN chief said that "grief at the loss of loved ones, shock at the loss of jobs, isolation and restrictions on movement, difficult family dynamics and uncertainty and fear for the future" might all cause psychological suffering.
"Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, are some of the greatest causes of misery in our world," Guterres said in his video message marking the launch of a policy brief titled "COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health."
"After decades of neglect and underinvestment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress," Guterres said.
Noting that those most at risk are frontline healthcare workers, older people, adolescents and young people, those with pre-existing mental health conditions and those caught up in conflicts and crises, Guterres said that "we must help them and stand by them."
"This is the background to the policy brief on COVID-19 and mental health that we are launching today," he said.
He warned that even when the pandemic is brought under control, grief, anxiety and depression will continue to affect people and communities.
"Policies must support and care for those affected by mental health conditions, and protect their human rights and dignity. Lockdowns and quarantines must not discriminate against those with poor mental health," he said.
Guterres said that "as we recover from the pandemic, we must shift more mental health services to the community, and make sure mental health is included in universal health coverage."
He urged governments, civil society, health authorities and others to come together urgently to address the mental health dimension of this pandemic.
"And I call on governments in particular to announce ambitious commitments on mental health at the upcoming World Health Assembly," he added.
The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the 73rd World Health Assembly will be virtual. The agenda has been reduced to fit into two days, starting on May 18.