WHO official advocates for mental health inclusion in Covid-19 recovery plan
May 13 2020 07:47 PM
Yasmin Mogahed, Dr Janice Cooper, Mishal Husain, Paola Barbarino, Dr Devora Kestel, Paul Farmer and
Yasmin Mogahed, Dr Janice Cooper, Mishal Husain, Paola Barbarino, Dr Devora Kestel, Paul Farmer and Dr Sharifa al-Emadi

Mental health should be a major component of the recovery plan from the Covid-19 pandemic for world governments, a senior official from World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted.

“Many countries are updating their plans for Covid-19 response. We at WHO are working to ensure that mental health is part of any recovery plan," stated, Dr Devora Kestel, director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

The situation has to go beyond the current isolation and has to take care of every aspect of the individual,” she explained.

Dr Kestel was speaking at a virtual event, “ Global Perspectives: Mental Health in a Covid-19 World’ organised by Qatar Foundation’s Education City Speaker Series in collaboration with World Innovation Summit for Health.

Other speakers at the webinar were Dr Sharifa al-Emadi, executive director of Doha International Family Institute, a member of Qatar Foundation; Paola Barbarino, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Disease International; Paul Farmer, CEO of UK-based mental health charity Mind; Yasmin Mogahed, author and international public speaker and Dr Janice Cooper, senior project adviser, Global Mental Health, The Carter Centre.

The session was moderated by Mishal Husain, global news presenter, journalist, and documentary-maker.

Areas featured in the discussion included vulnerable groups such as those with pre-existing mental health conditions, healthcare workers, as well as people grieving the loss of a family member or friend. Speakers focused on the strain that the pandemic and the lockdown of nations, is placing on people’s mental wellbeing, the risks this poses for individuals and societies now and into the future, and the support that needs to be provided to those struggling to cope.

“We are now seeing a big impact on the economic situation in every country. We have to take this opportunity to build back better, making sure mental health services are available for those who need them, and moving from institutionalised care to community care ” continued Dr Kestel.

“ During the economic depression in 2008, a study showed that the number of suicide and subsistence use cases increased because of unemployment and uncertainty. So we are advocating the inclusion of mental health in any recovery plan to ensure these services even at places where thy are not available.’” explained Dr Kestel.

“The optimist in me says that, for the first time, populations are beginning to understand what it means to have their mental health seriously challenged – this crisis brings mental health closer to people, and that hopefully means citizens and governments start to take it more seriously,” noted Farmer.

According to Dr al-Emadi, the crisis may reduce the “stigma” surrounding mental health and seeking help, and also reinforce the importance of the family unit.

“People are working from home at the same time as caring for their family, so parents have to understand their children, talk with them, and explain the reality of this situation to them. And we must recognise that while we may be physically apart from each other, we can still communicate and protect each other,” she highlighted.

“This crisis has shown us that there is a need for greater awareness of the rights of people living with dementia, and that governments were vastly unprepared to deal with this, so it will give us the opportunity to bring the needs of this constituency of people to a higher level,” pointed out, Barbarino.

Dr Cooper said, “There is no health without mental health, and healthcare systems will be undermined if it is not addressed. We need to think about what we can do to prevent further mental health conditions, and for those with pre-existing conditions, we have to make sure their status improves rather than deteriorates.”

“It’s very humbling and humanising, and is something we are all in together. It can be seen as a lack of connection, or an opportunity to actually connect more deeply with ourselves and our families – if we try to see it through a positive lens, it can help us with our own mental and psychological health. “concluded Mogahed.

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