60% of the inhabitants of the three Americas suffer from anxiety or depression and their situation is unlikely to improve soon because the conditions necessary for that have been changed by the pandemic. In fact, in almost 90% of countries, psychotherapy and assessment services have been interrupted.
That is according to Doctor Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan-American Health Organisation (OPS), who also warns that the region’s countries are facing a mental health crisis which could worsen and prolong the effects of coronavirus.
More than half the school programmes and over three-quarters of the non-school based programmes on this topic have been affected partially or totally, leaving the 15% of young people who suffer from depression in a vulnerable situation.
In the same way, it puts at risk the many people who may be experiencing these problems for the first time and lack the necessary support, including health workers on the frontline against Covid-19.
Etienne bemoans the fact that those who already live with mental health disorders have had difficulty accessing medication and essential therapies, something which could worsen their conditions and leave them vulnerable to breakdown.
In this context Costa Rica, for example, is carrying out numerous studies to better understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health and improve its response in this area, as well as to serve as a reference for other countries in the region.
Trinidad and Tobago also reorganised its services to take them directly into communities and launched helplines, remote health programmes and online directories of professionals in this branch of medical science.
The OPS is working with its member states to reduce the stigma around this subject, so that anyone in need of support feels comfortable and safe asking for help.
‘This pandemic is a reminder that good mental health is central to medical attention in our region and to the wellbeing of our societies,’ says Carissa Etienne.
That is why she emphasises that countries must invest now in areas like this to tackle the constant threat of the pandemic and limit its knock-on effects in the coming years. (PL)