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Policy Brief: Covid-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health

United Nations, 2020

Although the COVID-19 crisis is, in the first instance, a physical health crisis, it has the seeds of a major mental health crisis as well, if action is not taken. Good mental health is critical to the functioning of society at the best of times. It must be front and centre of every country’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently.

Psychological distress in populations is widespread. Many people are distressed due to the immediate health impacts of the virus and the consequences of physical isolation. Many are afraid of infection, dying, and losing family members. Individuals have been physically distanced from loved ones and peers. Millions of people are facing economic turmoil having lost or being at risk of losing their income and livelihoods. Frequent misinformation and rumours about the virus and deep uncertainty about the future are common sources of distress. A long-term upsurge in the number and severity of mental health problems is likely.

Updated June 2, 2020.

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