The Alliance for Mental Health (A4MH) has warned that if mental health care is not up to standard and all the necessary resources are not in place, excessive burden will placed on families.
In a statement on Tuesday, the A4MH, an organisation of the major stakeholders including patient representation, family caregiver and professional associations, has warned about the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the population’s mental health.
It noted that people with pre-existing mental health conditions are likely to be more vulnerable to the anxieties this pandemic is generating and since mental health services had to undergo changes to the way they operate.
“These people might be more at risk of deteriorating in their mental health, without having the appropriate follow up and monitoring to prevent a mental health relapse. People with mental illness require ongoing support, monitoring, and medical-psycho-social interventions, which are essential to the management of their illness. Without this support and interventions they may become acutely unwell, needing hospital treatment and at worse, risking and succumbing to desperate ideation,” the statement reads.
The organisation underlined that any changes done to the service provision, one needs to ensure that those who are already in care are not overlooked and that they continue to receive the treatment and support needed.
Speaking about the local situation, A4MH noted that between March and August, the mental health helpline which was set up at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis received 2,100 calls.
“People are not only fearing getting infected but are also experiencing uncertainties never felt before. Jobs have been lost, financial income severely disrupted, drastic changes to the usual routine and the demands of home schooling, associated uncertainties about the re-opening of schools and the stress of managing work, social restrictions and isolation in quarantine, the anxieties the frontline workers are experiencing, whom might need to leave their homes and be away from their loved ones, and the list goes on.”
The organisation also referred to the government’s mental health strategy for 2020-2030, as it noted that the mental health services are strained due to increased demand and limited supply. It observed that mental health services at the general hospital have been completely removed after the psychiatric out-patients department along with the psychiatric unit at Mater Dei Hospital have been closed.
The alliance called for an investment in mental health services to improve in-patient care, to train adequate staff to provide and expand mental health care in the community and the need to offer the service on a 24/7 basis.
Warning about the pandemic’s impact on mental health, the alliance stressed that it was in the country’s best interest to take the necessary measures, otherwise we risk a universal depression which could be more devastating than the physical effects of the coronavirus.
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