AHMM highlights pandemic-triggered mental disorder medication gap

AHMM highlights pandemic-triggered mental disorder medication gap

The 15th ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting (AHMM) press conference in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Friday (May 13, 2022). ANTARA/Andi Firdaus/FR

We can imagine that the pandemic harms everyone's mental condition.
Bali (ANTARA) - The 15th ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting (AHMM) highlighted a gap in the medication for mental disorder patients that occurs in the ASEAN region as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The medication gap in Southeast Asian countries' survey shows that there is a 90-percent gap that occurs in ASEAN countries," Indonesian Health Ministry's Mental Health Director, Vensya Sitohang, noted at the AHMM conference here on Friday.

The COVID-19 pandemic affects the condition of the people's mental and neurological disorder. The pandemic has hindered medication and treatment for patients, Sitohang remarked.

A major cross-border survey, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), shows medication service for mental disorder patients in developed countries is hindered by 35-50 percent, while in less developed countries, it is 76-85 percent.

"Generally, patients do not receive medication within 12 months," Sitohang explained.

The survey conducted by the Mental Health Doctor Association reported that mental disorder during the pandemic is triggered by several factors.

"We can imagine that the pandemic harms everyone's mental condition," she said.

"We can feel every second of the ambulance siren that passes by, hear news about our closest acquaintances who enter hospitals, and declining oxygen in every pandemic wave," she stated.

Related news: Anxiety disorder rate up 6.8 percent amid pandemic: Health Ministry

Another aspect that affects the people's mental health during the pandemic is the news in various mass media outlets concerning the number of deaths and people confirmed positive for COVID-19.

This situation exacerbates the psychological condition of patients, who already have a mental disorder, she noted.

Several AHMM delegations also highlighted that the medication gap prevalence rate increased up to two folds from the condition before the pandemic.

This condition is experienced by several mental disorder patient groups, such as the normal population without mental disorder and people, who already suffer from them due to domestic and social troubles.

The medication gap is also experienced by patients experiencing trouble accessing health services that further worsens the condition of the disease.

Moreover, during the second COVID-19 wave in July, during the oxygen crisis, a lack of oxygen supply to the brain also causes mental disorder to persist, Sitohang pointed out.

Related news: Manage stress to maintain mental health amid pandemic: Ministry

During the event, psychiatrist Albert Maramis noted that within the first five months of the COVID-19 pandemic, a certain report emerged in which it was stated that one out of five people aged 15-29 years in Indonesia thought about ending their life.

"Within a year of the pandemic, different survey results show that two out of five people are thinking about killing themselves. Now, at the start of 2022, one out of two is thinking about ending his or her life," he remarked.

A similar situation was also reported from related authorities in Thailand. One of the causes is loneliness and boredom during the quarantine period.

"They cannot contact other people. The other problem involves the economy," he explained.

According to the latest data in 2021, women aged 15-29 years fell in the vulnerable group and those living in urban areas do not have support, including those isolated due to the pandemic.

Several AHMM delegations in Nusa Dua, Bali, encourage bolstering mental health integration at the level of primary and secondary treatment.

One of the methods is by placing psychiatrists in health service facilities, such as the public health center (Puskesmas), to improve medication coverage and expedite efforts to help patients with mental disorder to recover. 

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