WHO: Mental Health, Psychosocial Advice During COVID-19 Outbreak

In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the new corona virus, COVID-19, to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. WHO stated that there is a high risk of COVID-19 spreading to other countries around the world. In March 2020,WHO made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

WHO and public health authorities around the world are acting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. However, this time of crisis is generating stress throughout the population of societies around the world. Therefore, WHO has released a document developed by the WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse as a series of messages that can be used in communications to support mental and psychosocial well-being in different target groups during the outbreak.

The document contains recommendations for the general population for healthcare workers, for team leaders in health facilities, for carers of children, for older people and adults with underlying conditions, and for people in isolation.

The word “alcohol” is only mentioned once in the document. WHO advices healthcare workers to “avoid using unhelpful coping strategies such as use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.”

In the long term, these can worsen your mental and physical well-being.”

Following are the messages for general populations in summary:

  • When referring to people with COVID-19, do not attach the disease to any particular ethnicity or nationality. Be empathetic to all those who are affected, in and from any country.
  • Do not refer to people with the disease as “COVID-19 cases”, “victims” “COVID-19 families” or“the diseased”. They are “people who have COVID-19”, “people who are being treated for COVID-19”, or “people who are recovering from COVID-19”, and after recovering from COVID-19 their life will go on with their jobs, families and loved ones. It is important to separate a person from having an identity defined by COVID-19, in order to reduce stigma.
  • Minimize watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information only from trusted sources and mainly so that you can take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice.
  • Protect yourself and be supportive to others.
  • Find opportunities to amplify positive and hopeful stories and positive images of local people who have experienced COVID-19.
  • Honour carers and healthcare workers supporting people affected with COVID-19 in your community. Acknowledge the role they play in saving lives and keeping your loved ones safe.

Access the WHO Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak here.

For further reading:

WHO Tips for Healthy Living in Quarantine: No Alcohol, Tobacco

WHO Tips for Living in Quarantine: No Alcohol, Tobacco