WHP report shows 25% COVID-19 patients still affected with mental health issues

At an event held in New Delhi, this report was published in the presence of WHP Country Director Ms. Prachi Shukla and representatives from the USAID.

WHP’s tele-counselling service helped COVID-19 patients, their family members and gender-based violence affected people in overcoming mental health issues

New Delhi (India), December 9: World Health Partners, a leading public health organization, shared key learnings and insights from its 18 month long intervention on mental health and gender-based violence across Delhi, Gujarat and Jharkhand. The project was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It was implemented with technical support from prominent institutions such as Central Institute of Psychiatry (CIP) and Ranchi Institute of Neuropsychiatry and Allied Sciences (RINPAS).

“Learning from the project highlighted the COVID-19 pandemic’s mental health impact by focusing on the need for accessing affordable and timely mental health care,” said Prachi Shukla, Country Director- World Health Partners. “Increase in mental health issues has opened the doors for deploying low-cost digital technologies that can support government’s efforts in building stronger health systems.”

The project was implemented from June 2021- November 2022 in 26 districts across the three states with the objective to provide early screening, referral and social security linkages to COVID-19 and gender-based violence affected individuals and families. The project reached out to more than 500,000 people using the Patient Health Questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4) screening tool to assess their mental health status.

Key highlights:

  • During the project duration, WHP’s tele-health platform received more than 70,000 calls for mental health support
  • As per the data from WHP’s helpline, 25% COVID-19 patients were identified having mental health issues. It also highlights that 16% family members of COVID-19 patients also reported having mental health issues
  • 95% persons with mild mental health issues were found to be normal after completing the tele-counselling sessions
  • In urban settings across all the three states, prevalence of mental health issues among men and women in 35-59 age group is higher at 21.2% as compared to rural settings at 13.2%
  • A strong linkage was established between gender-based violence issues and mental health. 77% of gender-based violence affected individuals were found to have mental health issues and 96% out of those showed improvement after WHP’s intervention
  • WHP also facilitated referral services for those in need of institutional care. More than 4500 persons for mental health, gender-based violence and substance use disorder, were referred across all the three locations
  • During the project, WHP promoted access and linkages to various social security schemes for the most affected. More than INR 5.4 million was deposited in the bank accounts of vulnerable communities across the project population
  • With an objective to strengthen mental health care in primary health care, more than 1000 key health functionaries including Community Health Officers (CHOs), Medical Officers (MOs) and Frontline Workers were trained on managing common mental health disorders

Insights from the project show that tele-medicine has been increasingly acknowledged as a viable system to widen access to provide mental health care and support.

Dr. Rajesh Sagar- Professor and Head- Psychiatry, AIIMS, said “Tele-mental health is a game changer when it comes to creating ease of access of services to the parts of the country that may not have access to the kind of quality care that is available to people in metros or tier 1 cities. There is a need to strengthen the health system of the country and to ensure effective mental health care delivery in the primary care setting in order to reach the unreached population.”

The widespread impact of COVID-19 and mental health issues has accelerated positive momentum in care seeking behaviour. To support this, expansion of existing resources and developing new and innovative platforms requires a comprehensive approach in building resilient mental health support systems.

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