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World Mental Health Day: One in two people say COVID-19 is impacting their mental well-being

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Jasmin Pierre with her smartphone app, a free Black-oriented mental health app that's seen more signups during the pandemic, New Orleans, July 2, 2020.
Jasmin Pierre with her smartphone app, a free Black-oriented mental health app that's seen more signups during the pandemic, New Orleans, July 2, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
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The COVID-19 pandemic is negatively impacting the mental health of one out of two people, a new survey has found.

Just over half — 51 per cent — of the 3,500 respondents surveyed across seven countries by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that the global health crisis has impacted their mental health.

The survey was released to mark World Mental Health Day on Saturday.

"The COVID-19 health crisis has exacerbated the psychological distress of millions of people already living through conflicts and disasters. Lockdown restrictions, a loss of social interaction, and economic pressures are all impacting people's mental health and access to care," ICRC's director-general Robert Mardini said in a statement.

"Mental health is just as important as physical health, especially in crisis situations, when mental health needs are especially critical," he added.

The respondents were from Colombia, Lebanon, the Philippines, South Africa, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), close to one billion people worldwide have a mental disorder with depression a leading cause of illness and disability.

Dr. Hans Kluge, the head of WHO's European Office, stressed that as resources were reallocated to deal with the virus, "mental health services were dramatically disrupted" across the Old Continent.

"From anxieties around virus transmission and the psychological impact of quarantine and self-isolation to the effects of unemployment, financial worries and social exclusion — the mental health impact will be long term and far-reaching. And, it is very clear that although impacted differently, no demographic or age group has been spared," he added.

He noted however that the pandemic had improved awareness of mental health issues which "provides a unique opportunity for greater investment in providing these services at the community level and in initiatives that fight stigma and inform communities."

He also highlighted that COVID-19 had shown the potential of digital mental health solutions.

The EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, called for increased investment in mental health and announced that Brussels will invest €8.4 million to boost community-based mental health system reform, multi-level nationals suicide prevention, and programmes to tackle depression.

She flagged that before the pandemic, one in six Europeans suffered from a mental illness and said the mental health of younger generations is of special concern.

"We need to address this urgently to avoid at all costs, a lost COVID generation," she said.

"It is understandable that we are all worried and stressed, anxious about the present and the future. It is essential that we work together to tackle the mental as well as physical consequences if this pandemic. We should not shy away from asking for help — be it for ourselves, for a family member, a friend or colleague," she went on.