The impending health crisis
“There is no health without mental health.” – World Health Organization (WHO)
As COVID-19 continues to bulldoze the world, there’s another public health crisis that’s looming over our health systems – deteriorating mental health. Large-scale unemployment, reduction in salaries, depleting financial security nets, increasing domestic violence, homelessness, and poverty are becoming more prevalent as a result of the lockdown. This is leading to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, creating an overall reduction in quality of life. This is linked to an increase in suicides and overall morbidity. Despair does not end there. Mental and substance disorders cause lower productivity. The WHO noted that depression and anxiety can have an estimated cost of $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
While they recognize the magnitude of the impact of mental disorders from COVID-19, it is getting increasingly difficult for health systems to handle the crisis as outpatient clinics (OPD) in hospitals and private clinics are shut indefinitely. Patients are running out of prescription medication for their mental health condition. In several countries, including India, getting medication without a prescription is challenging and patients have to rely on considerate pharmacists to refill their medication.
It is also important to focus on the masses in rural India that are highly vulnerable to suicides and other mental health disorders due to the influx of migrant workers and the farming community.
Risk Mitigation Plan
The World Federation for Mental Health has appealed to all countries and their governments to ensure that national mental health plans are designed to include the management of the mental health consequences of the pandemic. A mental health emergency plan that ensures access to mental health services is required. Social media and other conventional media outlets can be incorporated into the plan to create and spread awareness.
Telepsychiatry and virtual mental healthcare are taking off, globally. According to the CB Insights study, 2020 Q1 saw a record equity funding of $576 million for mental health start-ups, 60% higher than 2019 Q1. Virtual mental healthcare vendors, especially in the US, saw a surge in bookings and are trying to meet the increase in demand by introducing new services, quickening launch timelines, and onboarding more doctors. In India, according to the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS), as of April 15, 2020, nearly 16% of mental health professionals (656 from a pool of approximately 4,000) are volunteering to provide telepsychotherapy.
The pandemic has pushed us to adopt technology for various use cases. While the use of virtual consultations for mental health may slow down post-COVID-19, it will continue to be higher than it was before COVID-19. In addition to fast-tracking launches of their services and demonstrating scaling-up abilities, telepsychiatry service providers must have fluid business models based on a variable rather than a fixed cost to manage fluctuating demand.
Work Done by Frost & Sullivan on COVID-19:
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