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ECHRProtecting the mental health of health workers: hope and resilience in Kazakhstan

Protecting the mental health of health workers: hope and resilience in Kazakhstan

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health. Some groups, including health and other frontline workers, have been particularly affected.

Timur Lesbekov is a cardiac surgeon who worked day and night at the height of the pandemic in Kazakhstan to provide medical care and mental health support to critically ill COVID-19 patients. Health professionals like Timur and his team have been the pillar of the COVID-19 response in the WHO European Region.

But while they have given so much, they have also gone through challenging times. Health workers have responded to an unknown, deadly virus while working long shifts without breaks. They have witnessed pain and suffering on the frontlines, including the illness and passing of their own colleagues and teammates. They have often found themselves providing emotional support to patients as well as colleagues.

The combination of these factors has led to a mental health crisis among health workers.

Every year on 10 October, WHO marks World Mental Health Day to highlight the importance of mental well-being, and this year’s theme, ‘Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality’, coupled with the International Year of Health and Care Workers, is an opportunity to highlight the need to protect and safeguard the mental well-being of our health professionals.

In this short video, Timur shares the challenges he and his team have faced. But he also shares a story of hope, resilience and strength in the face of adversity.

Bringing mental health out of the shadows

Currently, over 150 million people in the Region live with a mental health condition, and only a small minority of them receive the care they need.

WHO/Europe has placed mental health at the top of the health and policy agenda. In September 2021, WHO/Europe launched the Pan-European Mental Health Coalition, an initiative meant to address gaps in mental health services, raise awareness of the issue and collect good and reliable data on mental well-being and ill-health across the Region.

The Coalition calls on governments at all levels to invest properly in mental health services, the workforce and modern therapeutic infrastructure. Anyone can join the Coalition by signing up via this form.

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