Lecture – COVID-19’s Global Impact on Mental Health and Response Opportunities

Available with English captions.

Presented by Shekhar Saxena, MD, FRCPsych, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health – Visiting Scholar Series

COVID-19 is posing a major threat to our mental health, which, at the best of the times, has been one of the most neglected areas of health.

In this presentation, Saxena cites the World Health Organization’s description of mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” He asserts that the stresses of life, the ability to work productively, and the ability to contribute to your community are all relevant concerns in the context of COVID-19.

Watch now to learn more about:

  • Statistics demonstrating the neglect of mental health globally
  • Various ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting mental health at a population level around the world
  • The intersection of public mental health and clinical care
  • COVID-19’s interconnected threat to our physical, social, and mental well-being
  • Innovative steps to strengthen mental health systems, now and after the pandemic
  • Direct and indirect financial costs of mental illness

Saxena says that COVID-19’s impact on mental health has been global. It has affected poor countries and rich countries. Surprisingly, he says, the effect was even more adverse in rich countries in the early stages of the pandemic. Saxena asserts that COVID-19’s influence on mental health will be long-lasting and may ultimately have a greater negative impact on our mental health than on our physical health.

As we scramble to strengthen our mental health services, some of the lessons learned over the years from global mental health are worth applying in policy and practice. These include taking a public mental health approach, attending to socioeconomic determinants, using innovative models of care, incorporating technology appropriately, and investing more money in mental health.

COVID-19 has shone a light on the inefficiencies of our mental health systems. However, says Saxena, we “can and must build back better.”