GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The COVID-19 pandemic is having a “devastating impact” on mental health services globally, the World Health Organization said Monday, ahead of a large fundraising push.  

It warned that mental health had been overlooked in the crisis, pointing to a survey conducted between June and August that revealed severe disruptions to services in 93 countries.

While 83 per cent of the 130 countries surveyed had included mental health in their coronavirus pandemic response plans only 17 per cent had actually set up the full funding required, it said.

“This is a forgotten aspect of COVID-19,” WHO mental health director Devora Kestel told a virtual media briefing, stressing the urgent need for increased funding.

Before the pandemic, countries were spending less than two percent of their national health budget on mental health, and were struggling to meet demand, the WHO said.

That demand has now dramatically increased due to the pandemic.

“Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones,” the agency said in a statement.

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