‘COVID-19 has created mental health problems’

20Oct 2021
Getrude Mbago
The Guardian
‘COVID-19 has created mental health problems’

The regional psychosocial support initiative (REPSSI) has said COVID-19 has created mental health problems among children and youth in East and Southern Africa resulting in increased cases of early marriages and school dropout rates.

Patrick Mangen, REPSSI chief executive officer.

Patrick Mangen, REPSSI chief executive officer said this during the 6th Psychosocial Support Forum held virtually last week bringing together stakeholders from various areas in Africa and the globe.

The forum was blended  by a main physical forum in Maputo, Mozambique, with satellite forums in Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and virtual for partners from around the globe.

Mangen called on non-governmental organizations as well as local, national and regional bodies to work in collaboration in scaling up mental health services and psychosocial support to children and youth at different levels.

He said because of Covid-19, families have lost their loved ones leaving children hopeless.

“Just last week, the 3rd high level mental health summit was convened by the government of France and drew very rich presentations from a cross-section of participants; in the same week the Alliance for Children Protection for Humanitarian settings held its annual symposium where emerging practices were shared; before that there was the WHO Global mental health innovations seminar; and just two days ago we celebrated World Mental Health Day,” he noted.

It is better that to address this ongoing crisis, there is a need for equitable mental health services that are accessible to all children and youth.

He called on stakeholders at regional level to continue exploring innovative solutions towards addressing mental health challenges facing children and youth in the region.

“REPSSI and partners have hosted a bi-annual Psychosocial Support forum to promote awareness and understanding of the importance of psychosocial support (PSS) and to share knowledge on approaches, research, practice and policy that impact on the provision of PSS to children and youth.

Mangen said the Covid-19 pandemic has caused untold suffering, weakened individual capacities and greatly debilitated community capacity for self-help.

“This Forum was therefore a time for us to share thoughts and ideas on how we can work together to rebuild community systems and capacities.”

He added: “Hosting this Forum would not have been possible without the generous support of our donors and partners. We are therefore extending our gratitude to the government of Mozambique; our donors and development partners. Other co-hosts have directly supported the country level breakaway sessions and children’s forums and have been acknowledged accordingly.”

Emerging research awaiting peer review suggests that single-session interventions for adolescent depression during Covid-19 can effectively reduce feelings of depression and hopelessness among youth. Increased access to, and availability of, mental health resources are critical.

Children and youth represent the largest investment in the future. The mental health implications of Covid-19 have been particularly dire. Although there have been some Covid-19 recovery initiatives targeted at this group, there is a great need for clear and actionable items to move forward with a mental health recovery plan that will address the increased severity of mental illness in children and adolescents and the rising need for services, he asserted.

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