WASHINGTON - The United Nations is calling on governments to focus on mental health services as people all over the world deal with the coronavirus pandemic. “After decades of neglect and underinvestment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday.
He said health care workers, the old and young, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions or who are dealing with conflict and crisis are at the most risk.
“The United Nations is strongly committed to creating a world in which everyone, everywhere, has someone to turn to for psychological support,” Guterres said. “I urge governments, civil society, health authorities and others to come together urgently to address the mental health dimension of this pandemic.”
The U.N. chief’s message followed one from the World Health Organization saying the virus that has so far infected more than 4.3 million people and killed about 300,000 may become endemic like HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It could stay embedded in communities even if a vaccine is found, said WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan during a virtual news conference from Geneva.
"HIV has not gone away, but we have come to terms with the virus," he said. About 100 organizations worldwide are working on developing a coronavirus vaccine. Even if they find one that works, containing the virus will take a “massive effort,” Ryan said.
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