Why More People are Dying from Mental Disorders – WHO

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By Chukwuma Muanya and Stanley Akpunonu

A logo is pictured on the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Reuters

• COVID-19 causing major disruptions to critical services in most countries, survey reveals

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The World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, warned that about one billion people are living with mental disorders, three million die yearly from harmful use of alcohol, while one person dies every 40 seconds through suicide.

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It made the disclosure ahead of the World Mental Health Day (WMHD), held on October 10 every year.

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Another WHO survey also revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted critical mental health services in 93 per cent of countries globally, as the demand for mental health services increases.

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A survey of 130 countries provided the first global data showing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on access to mental health services and underscored the urgent need for increased funding.

The survey was published ahead of WHO’s Big Event for Mental Health- a global online advocacy event on October 10 where world leaders, celebrities and advocates would gather to seek increased mental health investments in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

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Before the outbreak of coronavirus, WHO had highlighted the underfunding of mental health, stressing that countries were spending less than two per cent of their national health budgets on mental health, and have been struggling to meet the needs of their populations.

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It argued that the pandemic was increasing demand for mental health services as deaths, isolation, loss of income and fear were triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones, adding that many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia and anxiety.

WHO further explained that COVID-19 could lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation and stroke, while people with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 infection may stand higher risk of severe outcomes and death.

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Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “Good mental health is absolutely fundamental to overall health and well-being. COVID-19 has interrupted essential mental health services globally just when they are needed most. World leaders must move fast and decisively to invest more in life-saving mental health programmes during the pandemic and beyond.”

A consultant psychiatrist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi-Araba, Dr. Raphael Ogbolu, lamented that mental health still remained undervalued in Nigeria at the individual and organisational levels.

He explained that the factors at the individual level include denial, which stems from stigma, lack or low level of awareness, less value people place on their mental wellbeing and lack of information on how to seek help.

Ogbolu, who is also the coordinator LUTH Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative, said at the organisational level, there was poor investment in mental health due to stigmatisation and discrimination.

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