Chapter 8 – MentalWorld and Covid-19

The MENTALWORLD initiative is not an opportunistic one.The ongoing pandemic has not created any new elements in the field of Mental Health either in the form of specific symptoms / disorders or in the form of new therapeutic approaches.However, its spread has a particularly important contribution to the understanding of the operation of the field both independently and as part of the wider Health System.

COVID-19: Mental Illness, a “Parallel Pandemic”The COVID-19 pandemic has generated a “parallel epidemic” of deteriorating mental health, especially among young people. The World Health Organization (WHO) is establishing a new mental health coalition to help states address this problem.


“Mental illness is taking its toll, both on those who were already at risk, as well as on those who have never sought mental health support before,” Dr Hans Kluge, director of WHO Europe, told a press briefing on 28 January.

A. First of all, the pandemic mainly expresses and intensifies fear, insecurity and isolation / loneliness, conditions that are inherently characteristic of modern social and personal life. However, the intensity of the phenomena is found at extreme levels and this degree generates, reveals and intensifies in turn a series of reactions and behaviors: misinformation, domestic violence, questioning of institutions, denial of compliance, generation gaps, increased substance use and more. To the extent that massification and the degree of intensity continue their growth rate then the possibility of creating that critical mass that will turn quantitative into qualitative change is open. In other words, it is different to have depressed people in one society and it is different to talk about a depressed society.And of course, although every society expresses itself based on the current cultural context of the given time period, it subconsciously develops and incorporates behaviors that will define it far beyond that: the handshake gradually replaced the previous forms of greeting (bowing, revealing head, military greetings) at the time of the “Black Death”, the medieval plague epidemic, as a means of empirical thermometry and avoidance of transmission through personal contact. When the root cause disappeared, the behavior remained, opening up new eras for physical contactas an element of communication, the expression of trust, and the signaling of social stratification.


Imagine a society that subconsciously adopts elbow contact or rejects the kiss of encounter, consciously applies the withdrawal of people from the streetswith nets like dog catching (images we saw atthe Chinese media), or the indiscriminate adoption of sanitary passports.


The above means that the new situation cannot be addressed by adding additional telephone lines of psychological support or by increasing the administration of antidepressants by 80% as shown by data from some countries.We need to be more proactive and this can only happen with fundamentallevel processes that only the collective intelligence of a MENTALWORLD can offer.


B. A second equally important contribution of the pandemic is the highlighting of the necessity of the systemic approach and its pervasive absence mainly at the level of managing authorities whether they are supranational institutions or national authorities.


Evidence of this absence is unfortunately provided by all actions, strategic or tactical, related to dealing with the pandemic.Regardless of the quantitative weight of the results, in terms of interaction and multifactorial context, the pandemic only resembles a world war or climate crisis.Nevertheless, or perhaps because of them, all the big decisions to deal with the crisis lag obviously behind.Typical examples:


        –    Vaccine and vaccination management

        –    Transnational transport regulations and restrictions on domestic movement

        –    Role of primary health and prevention

        –    Design of National Health Systems

        –    Dealing with financial implications


All of the above highlighted the characteristic shortcomings of the non-systemic approach:


        –    Interruption of USA funding to WHO in the midst of the pandemic.

        –    Vaccine development process – Supplier selection criteria

        –    No synergies between UN, IFM and World Bank


In this second context the educational character of MENTALWORLD can be particularly important at two levels:


        –    Contributing to the formation of a systemic way of thinking and planning

        –    Creating strong pressure for the systemic approach to this great challenge.