While optimal suppression of the spread of Covid-19 must be a public health priority, governments are having to pay attention to the economic and mental health consequences on the population of these measures, and make difficult decision balancing these considerations.
However, there is emerging evidence that can guide these decisions.
With appropriate planning and investment, measures to address population mental health can contribute to efforts to slow the spread of transmission. If not properly considered, mental ill health, through various mechanisms, can increase risks of viral spread (e.g. through pursuing more risky behaviours), or lead to ‘reservoirs’ of continued infection where neglected populations are unable to access public health measures, including vaccination.
Therefore, this moment presents an ideal opportunity to invest in integrating mental health as a core part of Covid-19 response: to provide emergency care for populations impacted by Covid-19; to “build back better” and improve care delivery following the pandemic, leveraging the rapid pace of innovation during the pandemic; to support Covid-19 control and suppression; and, finally, to improve health system and societal resilience against future pandemics.
This paper provides a summary of the (emerging) body of evidence on two topics: the impact of Covid-19 on peoples’ mental health and wellbeing; and, conversely, the projected impact of mental health on the efficacy of Covid-19 prevention, treatment and control measures. It explains why it is important to rapidly invest in mental health, both to support populations impacted by Covid-19, and to achieve successful control and eventual long-term suppression of the pandemic, ‘building back better’ societies and economies.