Health: Strong increase in mental illnesses due to Corona – Panorama

In many countries, people affected by mental illness are still looked down upon. Photo: Sina Schuldt/dpa

Mental health has been neglected for decades, writes the WHO. Corona made the situation worse. However, the causes of depression often lie in childhood.

Geneva – The corona pandemic has led to a sharp increase in the number of mental illnesses.

Cases of depression and anxiety disorders rose by 25 percent worldwide in just the first year of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in its new mental health report.

According to the WHO, almost one billion people worldwide live with a mental illness. The number refers to 2019, before the corona pandemic. Almost every eighth person is affected. People with severe mental disorders die 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population, according to the report.

Mental health neglected for decades

“Mental health goes hand in hand with physical health,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “An investment in mental health is an investment in a better life and future for all.” Mental health has been neglected for decades, the report says. All countries must do more to help those affected.

Some of the main causes of depression are childhood sexual abuse, bullying or being bullied. This must be actively countered: through social services, support for families with problems and social and emotional learning programs in schools. Social and economic inequalities, wars, the climate crisis and threats to health – such as pandemics – are risks that contribute to mental illness.


WHO defines mental illness as a significant disturbance in a person’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior, usually associated with stress or impairment in important areas of functioning. In Germany, more than one in four adults meets the criteria for mental illness within a year, according to a report by the specialist association DGPPN (German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatic Medicine and Neurology). According to them, the most common clinical pictures are anxiety disorders, depression and disorders caused by the use of alcohol or drugs.

In many countries, those affected are still looked down upon and excluded, the WHO reports. It is important to include people with mental illness in all aspects of social life in order to counter this.

In all countries, the risk of mental illness is highest among the poorest people, who are least likely to receive treatment. Even in developed countries, only a third of people with depression are treated by professionals.


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