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August 13, 2020

Mental health, suicide prevention needs greater attention from authorities and public during pandemic

Mental health issues are likely to emerge as significant side effects of the new disease, requiring the attention of public-health policymakers.
COVID-19 has brought significant changes to our daily lives, as our movements are restricted in support of efforts to contain and slow the spread of the virus.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still accelerating and impacting people in multiple ways, WHO called upon countries in South-East Asia Region on 2nd July to pay greater attention to mental health and suicide prevention. “Hitting lives and livelihoods, the pandemic is causing fear, anxiety, depression and stress among people. Social distancing, isolation and coping with perpetually evolving and changing information about the virus has both triggered and aggravated existing and pre-existing mental health conditions which need urgent attention,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region. Early identification of mental health conditions, recognition of suicidal behaviours and appropriate management through a multi-sectoral approach is important, even as we continue to focus on arresting further spread of the pandemic, Dr Khetrapal Singh said. Suicide claims almost 800,000 lives every year globally and is the leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years of age. Evidence shows that for each adult who dies of suicide there are more than 20 others attempting suicide. The WHO South-East Asia Region accounts for 39% of global suicide mortality.
In Myanmar, suicide mortality for men and boys stood at about 5.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 2016 – well below the global average of 13.5 – according to WHO. But for women and girls, Myanmar’s suicide mortality was 9.5 per 100,000 people, higher than the global average of 7.7. It was the results of the survey that was carried out before the COVID-19 pandemic. During this pandemic, sense of stability and control has been threatened for everyone. For our young people, whether in the middle of puberty or approaching adulthood, this is hitting hard. Depression and anxiety generally go hand in hand with feelings of hopelessness and dread of what might lie ahead.
In these challenging times, we must look after our mental, as well as our physical health, and we all should display more sympathy and understanding, as the pandemic does not seem to be going away any time soon. Myanmar people who possess the fine traditions of perseverance, friendliness, generosity, and sympathy always actively participate in humanitarian tasks in the communities. These initiatives are most needed today. Together we must work towards promoting mental health and preventing suicide.

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