CoronavirusCOVID-19 Resources

COVID-19 is a public health challenge that is threatening the health and well-being of citizens globally. In this time of uncertainty, attention to the mental health needs of young people, adults, and those working on the front lines of the crisis is urgently needed. Local communities must find ways to promote resilience and support in the face of isolation and loneliness and to help those who are experiencing distress.   

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Behavioral Health

Living in a time of coronavirus is anxiety-producing. In a short period of time, we've experienced stay-at-home orders, isolation from our friends and family, a loss of our daily routines, and so much more. A new study by the Well Being Trust and the American Academy of Family Physicians warns that the coronavirus pandemic threatens the lives of as many as 75,000 Americans from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide.  

The pandemic provides an opportunity to promote resilience in individuals and communities, prevent behavioral health problems, and strengthen the delivery of services for mental health and substance use disorders.   

Promoting Resilience

Preventing Behavioral Health Concerns 

Strengthening the Delivery of Services 

Human Rights and Equity 

The full impact of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities will not be known for years to come. However, as the pandemic spreads around the globe, it is creating a public health and economic crisis that is disproportionately affecting  people who historically have been marginalized and discriminated against based on their culture, race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, socioeconomic status, and more.  

Although the crisis presented by the pandemic is serious enough to warrant restrictions of some rights, such as the imposition of stay-at-home orders, it does not eliminate the obligation of governments to protect other rights of individuals.  For example, international human rights law provides that everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including mental health.  It requires governments to act to prevent threats to public health and to provide medical assistance to those who need it.  In this vein,  it is critical to understand how the pandemic is affecting the rights of individuals and what can be done to protect those rights.  Responses that are shaped by, and that respect human rights are more likely to produce better outcomes and to preserve human dignity.  

Our task forces are working to address the needs and human rights violations of the following populations.   

 Trafficking of Persons 

Individuals identifying as LGBTQ+

Individuals in Custody

Migrants and Displaced Persons

 Communities of Color 

Policy in Action 

The impact of the pandemic has had disproportionate impact on populations that were already experiencing the effects of discrimination. The pandemic has also shined a spotlight on a behavioral health system that was already fragile. The gaps in policy and practice that have been exacerbated  during this crisis requires the urgent attention of policy makers at the local, state, and federal levels.

The Need to Strengthen the Behavioral Health System

The Need to Strengthen Key Community Institutions

Highlight: The Opioid Crisis During COVID-19 in the U.S. and Canada

Amid ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic and drug-related overdose deaths have grown exponentially in the U.S. and Canada. According to the American Medical Association brief, in the U.S., the data shows that more than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related deaths in recent months. Several reasons influence this spike, including declining mental health (e.g., depression and anxiety) and increased isolation, disruptions in drug supply, and limited access to essential prevention and treatment services due to COVID-19 precautions. While effective policies and programs are in place in the U.S. to address opioid and other drug misuses, they are not available to everyone. For example, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) —  the only evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder, is not easily accessible due to (a) lower-than-average rates of certified MAT service providers and (b) state policies that restrict Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to treatment.

Similarly, the pandemic has exacerbated the opioid crisis in Canada, healthcare particularly in the First Nations and Indigenous communities, which account for a disproportionate number of opioid-related overdoses and deaths. While the spike is attributable to most of the same factors as in the U.S., Canada’s border closures and travel restrictions have increased local opioid supply and use. With these ongoing challenges compounding the opioid epidemic’s issues during the pandemic, examples in U.S. and Canada highlight the need for a more proactive and coordinated approach focused on evidence-based, public health solutions.

Podcast episodes

Understanding Social Distance (8:50)
Listen for an interview with Katherine Schlatter on what social distancing means in the face of COVID-19.

Easing Anxiety in an Uncertain Time (14:48)
This podcast with Cynthia Handrup, President of the Global Alliance, discusses some of the evolving mental health-related issues that individuals and families are experiencing. It examines actions that each of us can take to assist others and help ourselves in this uncertain time.

Technology & Mental Health in the Era of COVID-19 (18:20)
This podcast is a conversation with Swarnima, or Nima, Chaudhary, a technology project manager at the National Mental Health Innovation Center, based on the University of Colorado Anschutz Campus. She shares with us the role that technology can play in addressing mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find the resources mentioned in the podcast here


Read our "Did you know?" newsletter on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on health and human rights.