News ID: 314765
Published: 0218 GMT July 13, 2021

Iran focuses on innovative approaches in essential mental health services amid COVID-19 pandemic: WHO’s statement

Iran focuses on innovative approaches in essential mental health services amid COVID-19 pandemic: WHO’s statement

Following the World Health Organization (WHO)'s declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic as a public health emergency, the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse of Iran’s Health developed an evidence-based response plan as of March 2020.

In line with WHO guidelines for mental health and essential services through the COVID-19 pandemic and supported by WHO office in the country, the plan provides psychosocial and consultation support using a wide range of approaches and implementing best practices from around the world, according to

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep rapidly across the world, it is stirring up a considerable amount of anxiety in the public at large, but particularly among certain groups, such as older adults, people with underlying health conditions, and care providers.

New measures taken against the pandemic such as physical distancing and home quarantines have given rise to psychosocial problems as a result of loneliness and depression, leading to self-harm or suicidal behavior. In such a context, access to and continuity of mental health services for people with developing or existing conditions remain a major concern.

To create a systematic approach, a rapid assessment was first conducted by the Iran’s Health Ministry to identify the population’s mental health needs, as well as requirements of the mental health system in terms of human and financial resources, infrastructure, and other relevant areas. These were then prioritized and a response plan was designed to address the mental health issues of individuals affected by the lockdowns, those who contracted and recovered from COVID-19, as well as the bereaved.

Even before arriving at this approach, various training packages were developed for capacity-building among mental health care staff within the primary health care system, including manuals for teaching stress management, problem solving in crisis, dealing with stress among children and adolescents, mental health support for health managers, managing suicidal ideas, and remote counseling training.

Only three weeks after the first COVID-19 cases were reported in Iran, Health Ministry, with support from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, set up a national helpline to create access to mental health professionals for the general population with 2 extensions: one associated with automatic replies to frequently asked questions, and another for trained mental health staff to provide individualized service over the phone.

Complaints of depressive symptoms have been reported to be increasing among the general population, making depression one of the most prevalent problems. According to official reports, an average of 5,130 calls were answered daily in the first nine months of the outbreak. Therefore, efforts have also been made to improve each care provider’s knowledge and skills to address various mental and psychosocial needs, mainly focusing on problems related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

An Iranian version of the WHO regional mental health and psychosocial support platform was developed and launched to facilitate access to mental health care services. The illustrated stress management guide by WHO, Doing What Matters in Times of Stress, was also translated into Farsi and modified according to Iranian culture and made available on the WHO website.



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