The issue

The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating impact on people’s mental health throughout the world. This is especially true for poorer regions, such as South Asia, where mental health services were already understaffed, decrepit and ill-equipped

The economic impact of Covid-19 is having a profound impact on many of the communities we work with. And without access to a social welfare system, millions of people are being pushed further below the poverty line, leading to surge in mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

We also know health professionals in South Asia are providing care under enormous pressure and terrible conditions, with most working without personal protection equipment, due to a lack of funding.

The impact

Many are being driven to overwhelming stress and despair because of extreme poverty. For example, in Nepal a shocking 16 people per day are currently ending their lives.

In addition, nurses and other health professionals are not only fearful and anxious because they are not receiving the support they need; they are also having to cope with terrible discrimination, and even abuse, because their own communities see them as carriers of the virus. As you can imagine, both issues are having a severe impact on their mental health.

The solution

Thanks to our generous supporters, since March 2020 we’ve been running a free emergency mental health helpline in Nepal for people struggling with mental health problems. It’s been a lifeline for vulnerable people including women experiencing domestic violence and children and young people.

We’ve also set up face-to-face and online support groups for healthcare professionals. These are giving nurses and other hospital-based staff much-needed opportunities to talk about their worries and seek advice and vital support.

However, we know this is just a small fraction of the mental health support people in South Asia need right now and beyond the coronavirus pandemic. So with our supporters’ help, we will continue to work with local partners to provide many more innovative services to meet mental health needs.

Critically, we will also continue to push national and local governments, and other key decision makers, to make mental health a priority over the coming months and years. Because the reality is without the right support in place, millions will suffer alone with severe mental health problems and many will take their own lives.