The coronavirus – now known as COVID 19 – has affected thousands of people worldwide with the number of confirmed deaths and infections increasing daily. Meanwhile scientists search to find a vaccine, and governments institute measures to contain the spread of this highly infectious virus. The rise in the number of persons infected and deaths recorded have caused anxiety, fear and uncertainty despite pleas for calm.
Under these dire circumstances, the World Federation for Mental Health calls for a coordinated rapid country-level mental health response to provide those affected and infected with the necessary psychological support.
Furthermore, those directly involved in providing health care should be equipped to assess patients infected for anxiety, depression and suicide risk. Those in quarantine or those who have self-isolated need to be identified as a group that requires psychological support during this period of isolation. They should be provided with options to remain connected and supported. The current situation calls for creative mental interventions which could include telephonic and other electronic forms of communication to provide the necessary support and current information about where to access mental health care.
We applaud the World Health Organization for providing regular daily updates to ensure effective preparedness and response by governments, health professionals, decision-makers and the public in managing the coronavirus pandemic.
We want to acknowledge the robust efforts made by governments in taking decisive action and by all health professionals and frontline workers who have given selflessly to ensure that those affected and infected are given the necessary medical support. We call for additional measures to include the assessment of patients’ mental health, and debriefing and psychological support of all health professionals and frontline workers who are at the coalface in dealing with the consequences of the virus.
Most of all, we call for calm and emphasize that everyone should follow the health guidelines given by the WHO and practice good hygiene to protect themselves, reduce transmission and ensure that everyone stays emotionally and physically healthy during this time. We furthermore encourage anyone experiencing mental health challenges as a result of this global health emergency to seek assistance from their local community health centre, helpline or mental health organisation.
Dr Ingrid Daniels
President: World Federation for Mental Health