PAHO seeks to address “mental health crisis” in Latin America due to COVID-19 | International

PAHO, office of the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO), launched on Friday a high-ranking commission to help countries to address mental health problems in the region, aggravated by the covid-19 pandemic.

“In the face of the current mental health crisis, the Pan American Health Organization has established a High Level Commission on mental health and covid-19 to provide crucial and urgent guidance to its member states,” said the director of the OPS, Carissa Etiennein a video conference.

The group, chaired by Epsy Campbell Barr, outgoing Vice President of Costa Rica, and co-chaired by Néstor Méndez, Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), must produce a report with key recommendations to improve mental health in the Americas, which is expected to be completed in the last quarter of 2022.

“We have great expectations that the work of the Commission leads to raising mental health to the highest level of governmentproviding a catalyst for significant and lasting reform of services and careÉtienne pointed out.

According to PAHO data, the new coronavirus pandemic declared in early 2020 had a “devastating” impact on the mental health of the populationwith an increase in cases of stress, anxiety and depression, especially among women, youth and the most vulnerable.

to the problems caused by fear, loss, unemployment, social distancing and misinformationis added the growing evidence of long-term mental and neurological consequences among those who they suffered covid-19.

And this happens when essential medical mental health servicesalready subject to long-standing underinvestment, are among the hardest hit by the health care interruptions due to the pandemic.

“Mental, neurological and for substance use and suicide account for more than a third of all years lived with disabilities in the region“, said Anselm Hennis, director of noncommunicable diseases and mental health at PAHO.

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But “nearly 90% of people in the Americas do not receive the treatment they needparticularly for acute psychosis,” he added.

Hennis stressed that suicide continues to be “a great challenge” for the Americaswith about 95,000 annual deaths by self-elimination, a 17% rise since 2000. Among the countries with the highest suicide mortality rates are Guyana and Suriname, Uruguay, United States, Haiti, Canada and Cuba.

PAHO said the Commission will work in five key areas: recovery from the pandemic and promotion of mental health as a priority; the mental health needs of vulnerable populations; integrating mental health into universal health coverage; financing; and promotion and prevention of mental health conditions.

Among the members are experts from Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, United States, Guatemala and Mexico.



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