UNFPA is setting up an online mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) platform to connect those in need of MHPSS services and mental health professionals.
“People are experiencing different mental health and psychosocial issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the political crisis. The range of problems can vary from stress and anxiety on one end of the spectrum to acute depression on the other end, depending on the individual’s situation. It is important that they seek and receive professional support to exercise a positive coping mechanism in order to overcome their emotions and stress during this difficult time. My job is to provide professional mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services to help people overcome the stressful situation and put them at ease to deal with their own problems in a positive way ”, said Dr Nyunt, mental health professional.
COVID-19 & mental health and psychosocial issues
COVID-19 has a significant impact on the mental health and psychosocial condition of society. Individuals may experience anxiety and stress associated with fear of infection, fear of death, social distancing, quarantine, misinformation, and uncertainty about the future. In addition, front-line responders such as physicians, nurses and midwives, who are involved in intervention efforts, may also experience physical, personal, social and emotional stress in the performance of their duties on a daily basis. extended period. Therefore, the mental health and psychosocial aspects of COVID-19 should be considered a priority.
Mental health and psychosocial issues have been reported as critical public health issues in the Asia-Pacific region due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it is difficult to access complete data on mental health in Myanmar, an article published in BMC Public Health in January 2020 indicates that the prevalence of mental distress was 18.0% for older men and women. from 18 to 49 years old from the Yangon region. The rate is higher among women (21.2%) than among men (14.9%). Another article from volume 61 of the Asian Journal of Psychiatry published in 2021 refers to data from 2016 and states that the prevalence of reported depressive symptoms among adolescents in Myanmar is 27.2% and that of suicidal ideation is 9.4%, both being significantly higher than the regional averages. Data from Yangon Mental Health Hospital shows that the number of patients treated for mental illness in institutions increased by 58% between 2013 and 2017.
UNFPA support for SMSPS in Myanmar
In order to respond quickly to the growing demand for SMSPS, UNFPA established in May 2020 a roster of four national SMSPS experts. These certified counselors and psychiatrists have been engaged to train humanitarian actors on SMSPS, enabling community-based mental health care for the populations they support, including GBV survivors, the elderly, people with disabilities, LGBTQI +, drug addicts and other vulnerable populations, including people in quarantine centers. List members also offer self-care sessions to service providers to improve their psychosocial well-being and share practical tips for dealing with difficult circumstances.
From May 2020 to present, over 2,700 participants from over 30 different organizations, including local and international NGOs, United Nations agencies, ethnic health organizations and CSOs, have attended the capacity building sessions. SMSPS capacity / self-care organized by UNFPA. On call, the MHPSS roster team also provides MHPSS services, including individual counseling, psychotherapy and family support, for UN staff and family members.
SMSPS services via an online portal
With the growing needs for SMSPS and the demand from implementing partners and UN agencies, UNFPA created the SMSPS online portal as a platform to connect those in need of MPSS services and professionals. of mental health in May 2021. The platform is expected to meet the needs of people in SMSPS services by making them more accessible to the Burmese population. Basic emotional support, psychological first aid (PFA), counseling, psychotherapy and psychoeducation services are available through the portal. The team’s mental health practitioners are trained in a variety of psychotherapy approaches, including IAT (Integrative ADAPT Therapy), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing), CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) and Interpersonal Therapy for children and adolescents. In collaboration with UNICEF, child and adolescent mental health practitioners are also on board.
“We have 10 mental health professionals with diverse backgrounds, including clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and professional counselors, to respond to inquiries through the online portal. Four of our specialists focus on children and adolescents. On the portal, the client can select their preferred mental health professional and make an appointment confidentially. For the safety and security of our service providers, we do not mention any identification of our mental health professionals such as names or phone numbers. Since the creation of this platform in May 2021 until August 2021, 97 sessions for 70 clients across Myanmar have been organized ”, said Adib Asrori, UNFPA SMSPS program specialist.
Mental health and psychosocial support must be the center of everyone’s attention
Due to the significant impact of COVID-19 on mental health and psychosocial aspects, people are starting to realize the importance of maintaining their emotional stability and mental well-being. In addition, the political crisis has exacerbated mental health and psychosocial needs due to its negative impacts on travel and personal security, access to information and communication, access to basic services, livelihoods and food security.
Dr Nyunt said: “Normally, people treat physical injuries and illnesses first. They tend to overlook the impact on mental health and psychosocial well-being until they experience serious consequences. For example, someone with mental health and psychosocial issues is more like someone standing on the brink. When he is out of control, he can fall at any time. We have to hold their hands until they can control themselves. This is what we do every day as mental health professionals. “
He added, “Mental health and psychosocial well-being must be the center of everyone’s attention. “
The SMSPS online portal is accessible via the following link. English and Burmese languages are available. https://www.mentalhealthsupportmyanmar.org