The loss of loved ones and livelihoods combined with the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 can enhance stress, anxiety, depression and mental health problems. Furthermore, the marginalization of people with prior conditions and their inability to access mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in the pandemic complicates their coping abilities.
Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) hosted a webinar on ‘Mental Health in Emergencies: Greater Investment, Greater Access’ to learn from other sectors and countries’ approaches in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The webinar was moderated by Dr. Yvonette Serrano Duque, Senior Public Health Specialist at ADPC, and Mr. Ananda Galappatti, Co-Founder and Co-Director of MHPSS.net.
Over 428 participants tuned in to hear from panelists which included government officials, UN agencies, academia, employer federations and private sector.
Mr. Hans Guttman, Executive Director of ADPC, welcomed all participants and gave his opening remarks. Mr. Guttman explained that the webinar aims to contribute to dialogue of mental wellbeing from a disaster risk reduction and climate resilience perspective.
Mr. Guttman also highlighted current challenges with regards to increasing accessibility and investment for health services. ‘At the local level, there is a need to ensure that the systems, capacity and expertise is available, which requires financing and competence,’ he said.
Prof. Jarle Eid, Head of Department and Director of the Centre for Crisis Psychology at the University of Bergen (CCP-UiB), also shared opening remarks and thanked ADPC for hosting such an important webinar topic.
Prof. Eid encouraged participants to seek opportunities for collaboration. ‘I hope that we will touch upon what long-term implications this experience will have and see that mental health is perhaps put on the global agenda,’ he said.
Prof. Dr. Marc Van der Putten, Program Director of Global Health & Development (International Program) at the Faculty of Public Health of Thammasat University (FPH-TU), shared opening remarks and discussed the accessibility of mental health services in prisons.
‘The COVID-19 outbreaks among inmates have highlighted the challenges in prison management,’ he said, adding that no one should be left behind during the pandemic.
Panelists in the first session discussed integrating MHPSS with gender-based violence support, putting government policies into practice, as well as the pandemic’s effects on small business owners and children in Asia and the Pacific region.
Panelists in the second session shared local initiatives to assist people with disabilities in Sri Lanka, managing bereavement and grief to COVID-19 in Norway and using community-based remote MHPSS services in response to the pandemic in Myanmar.
Mr. Aslam Perwaiz, Deputy Executive Director of ADPC, gave his closing remarks. Mr Perwaiz mentioned that ADPC has been supporting public and mental health in emergencies since 2003 and thanked all panelists for discussing why such services are critical during COVID-19.
Key takeaway messages from panelists included integrating mental health in general medical curriculums, prioritizing long-term capacity development of psychosocial services amidst COVID-19, encouraging a whole-of-society approach for solutions and recognize the specific needs of different population groups during the pandemic.
The webinar was led by ADPC in partnership with MHPSS.net, Centre for Crisis Psychology of University of Bergen (CCP-UiB) Norway, Faculty of Public Health of Thammasat University (FPH-TU) Thailand, and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHUBSPH) USA with funding support from Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).
Watch the full webinar below: