The campaign will share healthcare workers testimonies about managing pandemic-induced stress, anxiety, and depression
Washington, D.C. October 8, 2021 (PAHO) On the eve of World Mental Health Day, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is launching a social media campaign to raise awareness of the sustained burden the COVID-19 pandemic poses on the mental health of frontline health workers, inviting them to share their stories and strategies to better manage and cope with this added challenge.
The campaign Mental Health Now- Tell Your Story will gather written and visual stories from healthcare workers across the Americas via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. These stories will be combined and distributed through PAHO’s website, social media channels, and until the end. The story selection will be based on specific criteria, aiming to portray the breadth of the effects of the pandemic and display the diversity of the Americas.
“Health workers have sacrificed so much in order to care for people during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this has even affected their mental health in many cases,” said Renato Oliveira e Souza, PAHO’s Mental Health and Substance Use Unit Chief. Dr. Oliveira said, “The campaign will amplify the voices of health workers so that there is more understanding about the mental health problems they have faced.” “It will promote listening and dialogue, urging health service managers to take action to help their workers.”
Preliminary data from the COVID-19 HEalth caRe wOrkErS (HEROES) study, a collaboration between the University of Chile, Columbia University in the United States, and PAHO, indicate that between 5% and 15% of respondents in several countries in the Americas reported suicidal thoughts in the two weeks prior to being consulted for the survey. Between 15% and 22% reported symptoms compatible with depression.
The study whfocuses on the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of healthcare workers in 11 countries in the Americas: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The study will be made available in November.
The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the mental health of healthcare workers and many others in the Americas. They were faced with personal grief, news about death, job losses, financial and social crises, and school closures. At the same time, services to help people cope with such stressors have been disrupted by COVID-19.
Dr. Oliveira referred to the 2021 WHO pulse survey about the continuity of essential services. This survey shows that mental health services suffered the most disruptions, with 60% countries in the Americas reporting disruptions. Dr. Oliveira stated that this situation was extremely difficult. “The increased mental needs are exacerbated in the provision mental health services.”
Before the pandemic mental health services were not available to all. The treatment gap, or the proportion of people who need care but don’t receive it, was almost 80% in certain areas in the Americas. People who are less educated, poor or members of groups that are often subject to racial/social discrimination have less access mental health services.
World Mental Health Day, celebrated annually on October 10, is organized by the World Federation for Mental Health and endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). This event is a reflection of a global commitment for raising awareness about mental health issues and mobilizing support for mental well-being.
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