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HealthGlobal issues

Mental health issues saw sharp rise during pandemic: WHO

June 17, 2022

The WHO released a report which said that mental illness had spiked across the world due to COVID and related restrictions. Young people, women, and those who were already mentally ill have been more affected.

A silhouette of a person sitting in a window. (dpa)
Young people, women, and those who were already mentally ill suffered more during the pandemic.Image: Sina Schuldt/dpa/picture alliance

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday called on all nations to invest more in mental health, saying the coronavirus pandemic had caused a sharp rise in issues across the world.

Depression and anxiety rose by 25% in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, said the WHO in its World Mental Health report.

Only 2% of national health budgets and less than 1% of all international health aid goes to mental health, the report said.

"All these numbers are very, very low," Mark van Ommeren of the WHO's mental health unit told a news conference.

"Interest in mental health right now is at an all time-high. But the investment in mental health has not gone up. This report gives countries information on how to invest their mental health money better," he said.

The "suffering is enormous across the world," he added.

The pandemic's challenge to mental health

Stigma about mental health

Young people, women and people already suffering mental health issues were harder hit by COVID and the restrictions that followed, Van Ommeren said.

Even before the pandemic, about a billion people, or one in 8 people worldwide, were living with mental health problems in 2019. Those living in conflict zones were affected even more, with one in five suffering from mental health issues.

The report said childhood sexual abuse and bullying were common causes for depression. It also highlighted huge gaps in access to healthcare between different nations.

While more than 70% of people suffering psychosis receive treatment in high-income countries, the number drops to 12% in low-income nations, it said.

The report called for an end to the stigma attached to mental health. 

It also said that one in 20 suicide attempts leads to death, and suicide still accounts for more than one out of every 100 deaths worldwide.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that "everyone's life touches someone with a mental health condition. Investment into mental health is an investment into a better life and future for all."

tg/jsi (dpa, AFP)