Launch of Information, Education and Communication Materials on MHPSS Considerations in the Context of COVID-19 on the Occasion of the World Mental Health Day
Every year, the world observes “World Mental Health Day” on 10th of October with aim to raise awareness on mental health issues globally and mobilize efforts of the international community to support and invest in mental health globally.
This year, the official theme is “Greater Investment – Greater Access”, which calls for a greater investment and greater access to mental health. It is a timely reminder to governments and relevant stakeholders to ensure that mental health care is included in the general health care system to respond to these and other needs.
COVID-19 has changed our lives significantly, bringing uncertainty of the future and introducing us to the social issues of an unprecedented nature, which by itself caused elevated levels of anxiety and stress as well as overall despair and hopelessness due to unexpected loss of loved ones, threats to livelihoods, challenges relating to remote modality of studies and work, burden of required self-isolation or quarantine and increased sense of alarm due to fear of contracting the COVID-19 infection.
The pandemic especially affected mental health and psychosocial well-being of front-line workers fighting COVID-19 by delivering life-saving services as well as their patients infected with COVID-19 exposing many of them to experience negative influences of stigma and discrimination. Moreover, COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the acute vulnerability of people facing extreme poverty and of those living in humanitarian settings such as internally displaced persons with limited protection from COVID-19.
It was acknowledged by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, that problems of psychosocial nature, such as gender-based and domestic/ intimate partner violence, substance use and family conflicts are increasing in an environment of COVID-19 in a staggered way. He called for a joint action to address these grave consequences brought by the pandemic globally.
IOM MHPSS Unit in South Sudan contributes to the global call for a joint action for Greater Investment and Greater Access to mental health in its own way, considering the MHPSS needs and cultural context of South Sudan. With this in mind, a set of information, education and communication (IEC) materials was elaborated engaging communities of the displaced in the Unity State, Western Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile to sensitize different gender and age groups (such as IDPs, host-communities, persons infected with COVID-19 and their families and caregivers, front-line workers fighting COVID-19, people with disabilities and mental health and neurological conditions, those on self-isolation and quarantine) on the specific nature of stressors and MHPSS implications induced by COVID-19.
These IEC materials encourage individuals with diverse social roles, responsibilities and functions to resort to positive coping strategies while experiencing restrictions imposed by COVID-19, promote practice of daily self-care, and simultaneously, call on to be supportive to others regardless of required physical distancing.
Moreover, the IECs include specific psychosocial considerations to facilitate the reduction of stigma and discrimination based on the ethnic origin, towards persons infected with COVID-19, and front-line workers serving them. This set of IECs includes nine key messages and respective illustrations relevant to the cultural context of South Sudan and is launched by IOM online in three languages (English, Arabic and Nuer) in cooperation with the Ministry of Health (MoH) of South Sudan to commemorate World Mental Health Day and to contribute to the global joint action on greater investment and greater access to mental health services worldwide.