The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, has warned of a mental health crisis linked to COVID-19, as more people suffer stress and disrupted services during the current global pandemic.
A PAHO press release quoted Dr. Etienne as saying that recently collected data reveals a “mental health crisis” in the Americas.
“Today we are facing a mental health crisis that, if left unaddressed, will have severe consequences,” she warned. “It will not only worsen the mental health burden in our region but also prolong the pandemic’s impact.”
She urged countries to increase investment in mental health programs and called attention to three countries – Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, and Costa Rica – that are successfully doing so.
Addressing the pandemic’s toll in terms of illness and mortality, Dr. Etienne reported 1.4 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 20,000 deaths in the Americas in the past week.
In South America, most countries are experiencing declining cases, she said.
Across Brazil, hospital occupancy is lower than 80% across all states for the first time since November. But elsewhere, cases are on the rise.
Fueled by the Delta variant, COVID infections are accelerating across North America. “In Mexico, more than two thirds of states have been deemed at “high” or “critical” risk as hospitals fill with COVID patients,” Etienne said.
Both cases and deaths are reportedly rising in Central America, particularly in Costa Rica and Belize.
Infections and deaths are increasing across the Caribbean, including in Cuba, Dominica, Guadalupe, Jamaica, Martinique, and Puerto Rico, where cases rose by 49% and deaths increased by 70%. In Trinidad and Tobago, weekly deaths continued to rise.