THE Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) on Friday launched its official report on mental health and COVID-19, in which it has recommended that mental health be made a priority, and more investments be made to address this issue in the Americas.
During the virtual launch, it was revealed that a group of regional leaders and experts from various areas and disciplines had convened to assess the situation in the Americas, and to present recommendations on how to improve mental health.
This high-level commission on mental health and COVID-19 culminated its work with the conclusion of its report, “A New Agenda for Mental Health in the Americas”.
According to the Director of PAHO, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, the report offers ten recommendations to address the mental health crisis in the region.
He noted that he is committed to transforming these recommendations into a roadmap for changing the mental health situation in each country in the Americas.
“I urge national leaders and decision-makers in the region to also commit to these recommendations, and elevate mental health to the highest levels of government,” Dr. Barbosa said.
He went on to say that there needs to be a fundamental change in the region’s current approach to mental health, and for this to happen, more resources must be invested in this.
According to the report, which was authored by the 17 members of the high-level commission, prioritising and investing in improved mental health can bring about positive health, social and economic impacts on a large scale.
The report further examined issues like suicide, and noted that each year in the Americas, just around 100,000 people die by suicide, impacting individuals and families and entire communities.
It was then that they noted that Guyana and Suriname were among the 10 countries with the highest suicide rates worldwide.
According to the report, suicide rates continue to climb in the region.
To this end, the report stated, “Despite the demonstrated high burden of mental health conditions and suicide in the region of the Americas, only a small fraction of people living with mental health conditions receive the care they need.”
Further, it was stated that another key challenge in the Americas that has hindered the strengthening of mental health care is the lack of mental health data and reporting.
Meanwhile, in its recommendations, the high-level committee called on governments in the Americas to spearhead mental health reform at the national level and beyond.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that we can no longer afford to neglect mental health without serious and long-term consequences to society,” the report said, while adding that countries in the Americas must commit to elevating the prominence of mental health on national political agendas, and further demonstrate the commitment through strategic action.