Photo: Indonesian Red Cross Society

Geneva, 8 October (ICRC/IFRC) – Half of all respondents – 51 percent – in a seven-country survey said that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected their mental health, an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) survey found.

In a new report – The greatest need was to be listened to: The importance of mental health and psychosocial support during COVID-19,” – the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement demonstrates how the pandemic is adding an extraordinary level of stress and suffering on communities around the world. The outbreak is worsening existing mental health conditions, triggering new ones, and making access to mental health services even more scarce. It calls for urgent and increased funding for mental health and psychosocial support within humanitarian responses.

“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,” said Robert Mardini, the ICRC’s director-general. “Mental health is just as important as physical health, especially in crisis situations, when mental health needs are especially critical.”

The report also highlights the urgent mental health needs of those who have been on the frontline of the pandemic, from medical staff, to volunteers, community workers, social workers, dead body collectors, community leaders and many others. Nearly three in four respondents to the ICRC survey – 73 percent – said that frontline health workers and first responders have more need for mental health support than the average person. They are often directly exposed to COVID-19, work long hours, and are invariably subject to stressful events and stigma when supporting disaster-affected communities. They need access to support and care to ensure they can continue to care appropriately for others.

“Mental health programmes are some of the least expensive interventions in humanitarian response, but they have a lifesaving and priceless impact on the lives of people who need them” said Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “Now more than ever we must invest in mental health and psychosocial support for everyone – communities and carers alike – to help people cope, rebuild their lives and thrive through this crisis.”

The Movement’s recommendations for states, policy makers, mental health and psychosocial support advocates and practitioners include:

  • Ensuring early and sustained access to mental health and psychosocial support services for people affected by the pandemic
  • Integrating mental health and psychosocial support in all responses addressing the needs arising because of the pandemic
  • Prioritising protection of the mental health and wellbeing of staff and volunteers responding to the humanitarian needs in the pandemic

COVID-19 is creating an historic opportunity to turn commitments into action. Failure to do so will prolong the crisis – in economic, social, and health terms,” said Mr. Mardini.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

On the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement: The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprised of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and 192 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

On the ICRC survey: A total of 3,500 people responded to the ICRC-commissioned survey from seven countries: Colombia, Lebanon, the Philippines, South Africa, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. The survey, which was carried out by Ipsos from September 18-22, queried 500 people per country from a nationally representative sample. Individual country results are available upon request.

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Media contacts

For more on the IFRC response and interviews with Jagan Chapagain, please contact:

Rebecca Cole (IFRC), Geneva: +41 79 245 56 80, rebecca.cole@ifrc.org

For survey results and interviews with Robert Mardini, please contact:

Aurélie Lachant (ICRC), Geneva: +41 79 244 64 05, alachant@icrc.org

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