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PAHO Creates a Special Plan for Mental Health in Latin America

The Low Priority Given to Mental Health Care and the Devastating Effects of the Pandemic Have Led to the Creation of a High-level Commission in the Region.

Young man during a therapy session

Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Brandon Martínez Salazar

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Leer en español: La OPS crea plan especial para la salud mental en América Latina

Without a doubt, the pandemic has left strong repercussions on mental health in Latin America and other regions of the world. This situation is a consequence of the change in the lifestyle that humans used to lead before the appearance of COVID-19. This means that, due to sudden closures of schools and public places, teleworking and poor coexistence at home, people began, in most cases, to suffer from psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Now, in the face of this crisis in people's lives, PAHO has implemented a High-Level Commission for Mental Health and COVID-19, where recommendations will be designed and executed to mitigate the negative impact that the pandemic has had on the region regarding mental health.

What is this Commission about?

According to the web portal of the Pan American Health Organization, this project will be responsible for developing a series of guidelines that will reduce the psychological impact that the coronavirus has brought on the inhabitants of Latin America.

Likewise, it establishes that the Commission will have as objective five important areas that are:

  • Recovery from the pandemic and promotion of mental health as an essential element.
  • Cover the needs of mental health in the most vulnerable populations.
  • Integrate mental health into universal health coverage.
  • Financing plans.
  • Promotion and prevention plans.

Therefore, accelerating actions in these key areas is an opportunity to solve the problems that already existed before the pandemic and whose circumstance made the weaknesses of the mental health systems in the Americas even more apparent.

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What will its impact be on the region?

It is important to note that the Commission team that launched PAHO is made up of leaders from health organizations, civil society, distinguished academics, and expert staff on the subject. So, the initiative has a serious approach to dealing with the problems that have arisen from the pandemic, especially the millions of women who have suffered domestic violence as a result of confinement.

According to a scientific report published by the World Health Organization, between 2020 and 2021 there was a 25% increase in the incidence of diseases such as depression and anxiety worldwide. While specifically in Latin America, a study by "The COVID-19 HEalth caRe wOrkErs Study, HEROES", concluded that in the first year of the pandemic about 22% of the medical staff presented symptoms with suspected depression. On the other hand, a PAHO analysis affirms that a third of the people who contracted coronavirus were diagnosed with some mental disorder.

Taking into account these data and the scant attention paid to mental conditions in the region, it not only becomes a necessity, but it is also urgent that international organizations take action in countries that have not been able to deal with the problem, either due to negligence of the states or lack of resources.

This is how the treatment of this issue can be a historical milestone that will help to solve the low priority in mental health with more financing, more human resources and more training that adequately transform health systems.