Mental Health Matters: UNODC Support for People Who Use Drugs During COVID-19

15 July 2020 – Egypt and UAE 

“COVID-19 is not just a physical health issue, it is also a psychological concern.”

Providing efficient support to people who use drugs during COVID19 needs to be through a holistic approach that pays attention to both physical and mental health. UNODC provided online training on “Epidemiological considerations and the roles of psychiatrists involved in drug demand reduction during Covid19.”

Stemming from the foundations of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 “Partnerships for the Goals,” the training was in collaboration with the Fund for Drug Control and Treatment of Addiction (FDCTA) at the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS) in the Arab Republic of Egypt and the National Rehabilitation Center (NRC) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Bringing together 16 doctors, psychologists, and practitioners (8 females and 8 males) from both countries, the sessions allowed experts to learn and exchange thoughts on both the physical and mental considerations part of their role during the pandemic. The physical health discussions focused on the epidemiological indicators, modes of transmission, clinical prevention and control, and the possible vulnerable groups in the general population. The mental health sessions looked at methods of providing mental health care at a distance, known as “Tele-mental health” or “telemedicine.”  

“COVID-19 is not just a physical health issue, it is also a psychological concern,” a doctor expressed in the training clarifying the need for innovation to address the situation. Tele-mental health (TMH) proves to be a key method of support at times when direct and in personal health care is not possible. With the physical distancing methods in place, telemedicine is a way for the patient to access quality, evidence-based, and emerging health care diagnostics and treatments. The forms of telemedicine applied at both the FDCTA in Egypt and the NRC in the UAE include mental health assessments, treatment, education, monitoring, and collaboration.

The patients could be at their own homes or at hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, nursing facilities, and/ or closed settings - for instance, prisons and detention or juvenile centers. While the TMH providers could be psychiatrists, nurses, physician assistants, social workers, psychologists, counselors, and primary care providers. The method of delivering the service could be via any technology-assisted media, such as mobile phones, telephones, tablets, or any computer. One of the experts clarified that “TMH extends treatment options to those struggling with substance abuse and addiction, giving patients in remote or rural areas a better chance at recovery.”

This training is part of a series of online training sessions organized between UNODC’s Office for the Gulf Cooperation Council Region (OGCCR) and the Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa (ROMENA) and with the technical measures and insight delivered by the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section and the Prisons and HIV Section at UNODC Headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

For More Information:

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) - UNODC ROMENA Updates

Supporting Children and Youth in Juvenile Centers During COVID-19

Online Training to Support People Who Use Drugs during COVID19

Prison Health is Public Health: UNODC supports COVID-19 preparedness and responses in prisons in Egypt