Lebanon, COVID-19 and mental health

Lebanon was one of the countries to be affected early by the COVID-19 pandemic which caused stress and many mental health problems. The speed with which the COVID-19 pandemic spread forced clinicians to improvise, innovate, and adapt and came at a particularly unsettled time for the country, considering the armed conflicts, mainly because Lebanon is hosting an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees.

This is the first time in Lebanon that mental health has been treated as a priority at a national level. Before the global pandemic, mental health services were grossly underfunded and figures in psychiatric disorders a decade old. Anecdotally, onset of new cases of anxiety- and stress-related disorders was noted in clinical settings and confirmed by medical staff who were treating patients with COVID-19 and interacting with fearful families. The theme of mental health quickly became the focus of public opinion, leading to the burgeoning of initiatives within the early days of the quarantine. This allows proponents to emphasize the importance of early incorporation of psychosocial support in crisis response strategy. It is hopefully also an opportunity to emphasize the importance of mental health as part of essential services during a crisis.