The Red Cross called Friday for increased psychological support to health workers and others fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, warning of rising suicides as a result of pressure and isolation.
Countries around the world have taken dramatic measures to try to halt the spread of the virus, which first emerged in China late last year, with more than three billion people now living under lockdown.
The demand for psycho-social support has "increased significantly" since the start of the crisis, said Jagan Chapagain, the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
In an interview with AFP, he said he understood that providing mental health support "may not be very high on the agenda as we are trying to contain the virus," but stressed that the issue is important and "impacts millions and millions of people."
"I think that could be the big silent killer if sufficient attention is not paid to psychosocial needs and mental health needs," he said.
IFRC president Francesco Rocca agreed, telling journalists in a virtual briefing Friday that "the risk of suicide is increasing with the isolating of people."