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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 94-96

Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: The Pivotal Place of Social Psychiatry

WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health, Neurosciences and Substance Abuse, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria; Department of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Oye Gureje
WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health, Neurosciences and Substance Abuse, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/WSP.WSP_54_20

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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc across the world, upending every known facet of the human activity. Although a viral disease, it has nevertheless brought home to the world the huge importance of social factors as determinants of health and, of course, of ill health. These social determinants, though universal, are generally more inequitably skewed in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Since social factors are important in the acquisition and dissemination of the infection, it is no surprise that a number of the containment and mitigation activities are also essentially social. Yet, those mitigation efforts such as a stringent lockdown and social distancing create their own problems, more so in LMIC. The situation is precarious for LMIC in both ways. The consequences of both the disease and the mitigation strategies on mental health of the population are multifactorial and likely to be huge. Further, it is plausible to expect the effects of COVID-19 to include a widening of the treatment gap for mental disorders in LMIC. Social psychiatry provides an important platform to grasp the contextual demands of community response to COVID-19. A good understanding of the social contexts in which the mental health consequence of COVID-19 is being experienced will be vital to provide appropriate care to persons affected. These are not strategies and approaches to be seen as only for short-term use. Clinicians will require the necessary skills of social psychiatry as approaches to care for the long-term, as the mental health consequences of COVID-19, including associated stigma of those infected by the virus, may linger much longer in the LMIC.

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