The United States is failing deeply in containing the pandemic, but it also failing to provide the mental health services that this moment demands. Associate editor Sophia Crabbe-Field spoke with Shekhar Saxena on July 10 about addressing the glaring lack of mental health care in the United States, what we can learn from other countries, and how we can make mental health a global public good.

Shekhar Saxena: When I say COVID-19 disease, I mean two things. One is, of course, that a very large number of people are getting infected. But a much, much larger number of people are affected by restrictions put in because of COVID-19, as well as by the economic and social impact, including economic difficulties and joblessness, that a large number of people are facing.

We are all at some point on the mental health spectrum. And we move on that as we go through different kinds of situations in our lives. When we are going through a lot of stress, and economic and social changes, people who were coping well, cannot cope well now. And others who had an established disability but had the social network to support them are suddenly losing that network.

The people who are not able to cope better may need some kind of self-help or may need to be talking to their family and colleagues and relying on informal social support. And there I must point out that the directive of “social distancing” is actually very unhelpful. Actually, what we need is physical distancing, which is a requirement to decrease the infections, but enhanced social connectedness and support.

Read the full discussion about COVID-19's mental health crisis with Shekhar Saxena at Democracy Journal.