Port Of Spain –The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) says the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is not only a threat to physical health, but fear, depression and anxiety, worry about loved ones, joblessness and financial concerns.
In addition, the “infodemic” and the impact of containment measures such as physical distancing, self-isolation, quarantine and working from home, have all had a significant impact on mental health globally.
It said extreme stressors may induce, worsen or exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions and the risk for suicide and that mental health is recognised as essential to human well-being, physical health and socioeconomic outcomes.
Globally, and in the Caribbean, mental health disorders account for a significant burden of morbidity and mortality. In Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, mental, neurological and substance uses disorders (MNS) and suicide account for 31, 32 and 31 per cent respectively of all years lived with disability (YLDs) respectively, and 13, 16 and 14 per cent of total disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) respectively.
PAHO said additionally, suicide, which claims the lives of nearly 100,000 people per year in the Americas, is a critical issue in these three countries, and one which must be addressed urgently.
“Age-standardised suicide rates in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago are 40.8.2, 25.9, and 8.3 per 100 000 respectively. Furthermore, Guyana and Suriname are among the ten countries with the highest global age-standardised suicide rates.”
PAHO said that the pandemic’s growing impact on well-established risk factors for suicide, including job or financial loss, isolation and lack of social support, trauma or abuse, and barriers to accessing health, highlight the immediate public health priority of suicide and its risk factors, particularly in these three countries, which struggled with suicide prior to the pandemic.
“It is anticipated that Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago will experience greater mental health needs during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. “
PAHO said that effectively meeting country needs for mental health and psychosocial support during COVID-19 and other humanitarian crises requires strong, coordinated national responses. These responses should be grounded in up-to-date mental health and suicide prevention policies and plans and require national leadership and multisectoral coordination to execute, as well as surveillance systems to monitor and evaluate response efforts.
PAHO said that in support of these efforts, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) through financial support of the European Union to the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on NCDs through the health system strengthening for universal health coverage partnership is assisting Trinidad and Tobago to develop an implementation plan for its National Suicide Prevention Strategy 2021-2030, scaling up of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services (MHPSS), and the establishment of a national suicide and self-harm surveillance system. (CMC)