UN Secretary-General's message marking the launch of the policy brief: COVID-19 and the need for action on mental health

  • The COVID-19 virus is not only attacking our physical health; it is also increasing psychological suffering. Governments must put mental health services at the heart of their COVID-19 response

Watch the video message here.

Download the policy brief here.

[Filipino translation below]

Mental health is at the core of our humanity.

It enables us to lead rich and fulfilling lives and to participate in our communities

But the COVID-19 virus is not only attacking our physical health; it is also increasing psychological suffering.  

Grief at the loss of loved ones…

Shock at the loss of jobs…

Isolation and restrictions on movement…

Difficult family dynamics…

Uncertainty and fear for the future…

Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, are some of the greatest causes of misery in our world.

Throughout my life, and in my own family, I have been close to doctors and psychiatrists treating these conditions. As prime minister of my country, Portugal, and as High Commissioner for Refugees, I became acutely aware of the suffering they cause. This suffering is often exacerbated by stigma and discrimination, which is absolutely unacceptable.

After decades of neglect and underinvestment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress.

Those most at risk are frontline healthcare workers, older people, adolescents and young people, those with pre-existing mental health conditions and those caught up in conflict and crisis.

We must help them and stand by them.

Even when the pandemic is brought under control, grief, anxiety and depression will continue to affect people and communities.    

This is the background to the policy brief on COVID-19 and mental health that we are launching today.

Mental health services are an essential part of all government responses to COVID-19. They must be expanded and fully funded.

Policies must support and care for those affected by mental health conditions, and protect their human rights and dignity. Lockdowns and quarantines must not discriminate against those with poor mental health.

As we recover from the pandemic, we must shift more mental health services to the community, and make sure mental health is included in universal health coverage.

The United Nations is strongly committed to creating a world in which everyone, everywhere, has someone to turn to for psychological support.

I urge governments, civil society, health authorities and others to come together urgently to address the mental health dimension of this pandemic.

And I call on governments in particular to announce ambitious commitments on mental health at the upcoming World Health Assembly. [Ends]

[Filipino translation follows]

Ang kalusugang pangkaisipan ay nasa pusod ng sangkatauhan.

Pinahihintulutan tayong makapamuhay ng masagana at maykatuparan at makilahok sa ating komunidad

Sinasalakay ng COVID-19 virus hindi lamang ang ating kalusugang pisikal; ito rin ay nagpapatindi ng ating pagdurusang pangkaisipan.

Dalamhating dulot ng pagpanaw ng mga minamahal…

Dagok mula sa pagkawala ng hanapbuhay…

Pag-iisa at paghihigpit sa paggalaw…

Mahirap na pagsasamahan ng pamilya…

Takot at walang katiyakang hinaharap…

Ang mga suliranin sa pagiisip, tulad ng depresiyon at pagkabahala, ay pinagmumulan ng pinakamatinding kahirapan sa mundo.

Sa buong buhay ko, at sa aking pamilya, ako ay naging malapit sa mga manggagamot na nagpapagaling sa mga naturang kundisyon. Bilang prime minister ng Portugal, at High Commissioner for Refugees, nabatid ko ang paghihirap na dulot nito. Pinatitindi ng diskriminasyon at estigma ang pagdurusang ito, at ito ay di katanggap-tanggap.

Matapos ang ilang dekada ng pagpapabaya at kakulangan ng pamumuhanan sa mga serbisyong nakatuon sa pangkalusugang pangkaisipan, ang COVID-19 ay ngayo’y tumatama sa mga pamilya at komunidad na dumaranas ng ng paghihirap na pangkaisipan.

Higit na naaapektuhan ang mga manggagawang pangkalusugan na nasa bungad ng pagtugon sa pandemya, mga nakatatanda, ang kabataan, yaong mayroon nang problema sa pagiisip, at ang mga nasa gitna ng hidwaan at krisis.

Kailangan natin silang ayudahan.

Kahit pa nasawata na ang pandemya, patuloy na mararansan ng mga tao at komunidad ang pagdadalamhati, pagkabahala at depresyon.

Ito ang dahilan kung bakit namin inilalathala ngayon ang policy brief sa COVID-19 at kalusugang pangkaisipan.

Ang serbisyong nakatuon sa kalusugang pangkaisipan ay mahalagang bahagi ng tugon ng pamahalaan sa COVID-19. Kailangan itong palawakin at pondohan.

Kailangang tugunan ng polisiya ang suporta at pagkalinga sa mga naaapektuhan ng kundisyon sa pagiisip, at ang pangangalaga sa kanilang dignidad at karapatang pantao. Kailangang siguraduhin na ang lockdown at kwarantina ay di mag-diskrimina sa mga taong di maigi ang kalusugang pangkaisipan.

Habang tayo ay bumabangon sa pandemya, dapat nating ibaling ang mas maraming serbisyo para sa kalusugang pangkaisipan, at siguraduhing ang kalusugang pangkaisipan ay parte ng universal health coverage.

Ang United Nations ay nangangakong bubuo ng isang mundo kung saan lahat nga tao, sa bawat sulok ng mundo, ay mayroong matatakbuhan para sa ayudang pangkaisipan.

Hinihimok ko ang mga pamahalaan, mga organisasyong sibil, mga nangangasiwa sa kalusugan, at lahat ng iba pa na magtulong-tulong upang pagtuunan ang epekto ng pandemya sa kalusugang pangkaisipan.

Nananawagan ako sa mga pamahalaan na ianunsiyo ang kanilang mga plano patungkol sa kalusugang pangkaisipan sa darating na World Health Assembly. [Nagtatapos]

Translated to Filipino by Teresa L. Debuque, national information officer, United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Manila

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