Monday is World Mental Health Day. To mark the day, the World Health Organization has launched a campaign to “raise awareness and spur action” in regions where there are high rates of death by suicide.
The world health body said that the pandemic has created “a global crisis for mental health,” in a statement Monday, adding that it is “fueling short- and long-term stresses and undermining the mental health of millions.”
“Estimates put the rise in both anxiety and depressive disorders at more than 25% during the first year of the pandemic,” the U.N. agency said. “At the same time, mental health services have been severely disrupted and the treatment gap for mental health conditions has widened.”
The treatment of mental health issues is particularly acute in Africa where there is only one psychiatrist for every 500,000 people — 100 times less than WHO’s recommendation.
The WHO suicide prevention campaign in Africa aims to address the issue. In Africa, 11 people per 100,000 kill themselves, in comparison to the world average of 9 per 100,000. The continent has six of the 10 countries with the highest suicide rates.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said “Significant investment must be made to tackle Africa’s growing burden of chronic diseases and non-infectious conditions such as mental disorders that can contribute to suicide.”
The mental healthcare initiatives that WHO is supporting in Africa include training primary healthcare workers in Zimbabwe to boost quality and access to mental health services.
“Mental health is integral to wholesome health and well-being yet far too many people in our region who need help for mental health conditions do not receive it. It’s time for radical change,” Dr. Moeti said.