COVIDPlanengCOVID-19: addressing mental health needs and providing psychosocial support during the pandemic in the Region of the Americas: Plan of action 2020-

The mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of populations are profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fear, anxiety/worry, and uncertainty are common reactions in all of the affected countries. However, for some people, these reactions can be more prolonged, severe and disabling, leading to increases in mental disorders in the Region. Additionally, extreme stressors may induce, worsen or exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions.

In response to this growing threat, PAHO’s Mental Health and Substance Use Unit has developed a Plan of Action to guide mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) actions in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Americas, entitled “COVID-19: addressing mental health needs and providing psychosocial support during the pandemic in the Region of the Americas: Plan of action 2020.” The goal of the Regional plan, aligned with the WHO MHPSS plan, is to reduce suffering and improve the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of people in the Region of the Americas affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The structure of the plan follows the five pillars of the PAHO/WHO Regional COVID-19 Incident Management Strategic Plan, and below are the areas covered in each pillar: 

  • Communications (developing, adapting and disseminating communications materials related to MHPSS during COVID-19);
  • Strengthening Health Systems (building MHPSS response capacity, supporting the mental health of healthcare workers, and protecting persons in institutions);
  • Epidemic Intelligence (generating evidence on MHPSS and COVID-19 and supporting countries in rapid appraisal and monitoring);
  • Public Health Measures (enabling digital/virtual MHPSS and strengthening cross-disciplinary coordination and integration); and
  • Enabling Functions (staff wellbeing and information).

The Plan is a living document, intended to inform PAHO COVID-19 MHPSS technical activities as well as countries’ response to the developing mental health and psychosocial needs of their populations. The Plan incorporates key evidence-based recommendations for action. The COVID-19 MHPSS response plan encompasses short-, medium-, and longer-term actions, with the long-term aim of building back stronger mental health systems. Country contexts within the Region differ widely, and countries may choose to prioritize actions that are most relevant to their context, or use the Plan as guidance in developing more specific national action plans.