Worst of COVID-19 is over, but mental health problems remain . . .
On April 18, Wuhan opened up after months under a COVID-19 lockdown. While the virus has been largely contained, mental scars and post-traumatic impacts remain, particularly among those who have been most affected by the crisis. Medical frontline workers have encountered sickness and death, and recovered patients have faced stigma upon their return to their communities. As approximately 85 per cent of transmissions occurred within families, those with family members who were infected or killed by the virus are likely to continue facing mental health challenges.
Deficient mental health system . . .
While mental health in Wuhan has become a growing challenge, China lacks the means to address it. The country has only 2.2 psychiatrists per 100,000 people, compared to Canada with 13.2 per 100,000 population. There is also the issue of social stigma associated with mental health problems, deterring many people from seeking help. The lack of regulations and norms to protect privacy in general poses further challenges to those attempting to seek help and cope with the trauma.
Government efforts to meet challenge . . .
The Chinese government is taking new measures. During the crisis in Wuhan, the government ordered community workers, social workers, and volunteers to identify community residents suffering from mental health problems and offer them assistance – but there were no mechanisms put in place to assure their privacy would be protected in the process. The government also opened up phone and internet mental health hotlines supporting frontline medical workers. These measures are important, but still don’t compensate for the lack of mental health professionals in China. Comparatively, Canada has more advanced infrastructure and experience in addressing mental health issues, which could be an area where the two countries could share experiences and best practices in the post-COVID-19 era.
- National Health Commission: 关于印发新冠肺炎疫情心理疏导工作方案的通知
- Science and Technology Daily: 湖北心理“疫苗”助力科学战“疫”
- The Strait Times: Wuhan's coronavirus crisis is easing, but its mental health disaster is just beginning