Focus on mental health in new normal

As officials expect to see an increase in the number of mental health problems in the new normal brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, the Ministry of Health and Sports is moving forward with proactive measures to strengthen mental health services as part of the COVID-19 response.
The ministry is planning to release its Mental Health Policy and Mental Health Care Strategy 2020-2025, after seeking approval from the Union Cabinet. Also, the Union Government is taking measures to tackle challenges, prior to implementing the mental health care policy, as it is committed to putting in place the universal health care services throughout the country.
The strategy to control and suppress spread of infection, strengthen and maintain health services, and support each other to stay safe, healthy and well, will help us to save lives and minimize impact. After decades of neglect and underinvestment in mental health services globally, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress. According to the World Health Organization, healthcare 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.
In this time of COVID-19 crisis we are facing two pandemics. One is the Coronavirus. The other one is more threatening, caused by societal panic with its accompanying fear and anxiety, along with the stress caused by concerns for daily livelihoods. The second could do more harm and last longer than the first, if we don’t manage it well. Experts have warned of the isolation felt by many, especially the elderly who are quarantined. There are also the anxieties that will affect daily waged workers and those working just to make ends meet. Others will worry about the future of their jobs.
We must also stay well, look after our mental health and be supportive of others. It is natural to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or angry during a crisis. Helpful coping strategies include getting sufficient rest, exercise, eating well, avoiding harmful substances and staying in close contact with family and friends. We must continue to stand together to tackle what is the greatest public health challenge of our generation. We would like to urge civil societies, health authorities and others to come together urgently to address the mental health dimension of this pandemic.

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