WHO Highlights Urgent Need To Transform Mental Health, Mental Health Care

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On Friday the World Health Organization released its largest review of world mental health since the turn of the century.

The detailed work provides a blueprint for governments, academics, health professionals, civil society and others with an ambition to support the world in transforming mental health.

In 2019, nearly a billion people – including 14% of the world’s adolescents – were living with a mental disorder.

Suicide accounted for more than 1 in 100 deaths and 58% of suicides occurred before age 50. Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability, causing one in six years lived with disability.

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People with severe mental health conditions die on average 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population, mostly due to preventable physical diseases. Childhood sexual abuse and bullying victimization are major causes of depression. Social and economic inequalities, public health emergencies, war, and the climate crisis are among the global, structural threats to mental health.

Depression and anxiety went up by more than 25% in the first year of the pandemic alone.

Stigma, discrimination and human rights violations against people with mental health conditions are widespread in communities and care systems everywhere; 20 countries still criminalize attempted suicide.

Across countries, it is the poorest and most disadvantaged in society who are at greatest risk of mental ill-health and who are also the least likely to receive adequate services.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, just a small fraction of people in need had access to effective, affordable and quality mental health care.

For example, 71% of those with psychosis worldwide do not receive mental health services. While 70% of people with psychosis are reported to be treated in high-income countries, only 12% of people with psychosis receive mental health care in low-income countries

. For depression, the gaps in service coverage are wide across all countries: even in high-income countries, only one third of people with depression receive formal mental health care and minimally-adequate treatment for depression is estimated to range from 23% in high-income countries to 3% in low- and lower-middle-income countries.

Drawing on the latest evidence available, showcasing examples of good practice, and voicing people’s lived experience, WHO’s comprehensive report highlights why and where change is most needed and how it can best be achieved.

It calls on all stakeholders to work together to deepen the value and commitment given to mental health, reshape the environments that influence mental health and strengthen the systems that care for people’s mental health.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Everyone’s life touches someone with a mental health condition. Good mental health translates to good physical health and this new report makes a compelling case for change. The inextricable links between mental health and public health, human rights and socioeconomic development mean that transforming policy and practice in mental health can deliver real, substantive benefits for individuals, communities and countries everywhere. Investment into mental health is an investment into a better life and future for all.”

All 194 WHO Member States have signed up to the Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013–2030, which commits them to global targets for transforming mental health. Pockets of progress achieved over the past decade prove that change is possible.

But change is not happening fast enough, and the story of mental health remains one of need and neglect with 2 out of 3 dollars of scarce government spending on mental health allocated to stand-alone psychiatric hospitals rather than community-based mental health services where people are best served.

For decades mental health has been one of the most overlooked areas of public health, receiving a tiny part of the attention and resources it needs and deserves.

Dévora Kestel, Director of WHO’s Mental Health and Substance Use Department called for change: “Every country has ample opportunity to make meaningful progress towards better mental health for its population. Whether developing stronger mental health policies and laws, covering mental health in insurance schemes, developing or strengthening community mental health services or integrating mental health into general health care, schools, and prisons, the many examples in this report show that the strategic changes can make a big difference.”

The report urges all countries to accelerate their implementation of the Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013–2030. It makes several recommendations for action, which are grouped into three ‘paths to transformation’ that focus on shifting attitudes to mental health, addressing risks to mental health and strengthening systems of care for mental health. They are:

1. Deepen the value and commitment we give to mental health. For example:

Stepping up investments in mental health, not just by securing appropriate funds and human resources across health and other sectors to meet mental health needs, but also through committed leadership, pursuing evidence-based policies and practice, and establishing robust information and monitoring systems.

Including people with mental health conditions in all aspects of society and decision-making to overcome stigma and discrimination, reduce disparities and promote social justice.

2. Reshape environments that influence mental health, including homes, communities, schools, workplaces, health care services, natural environments. For example:

Intensifying engagement across sectors, including to understand the social and structural determinants of mental health and intervening in ways that reduce risks, build resilience and dismantle barriers that stop people with mental health conditions participating fully in society.

Implementing concrete actions to improve environments for mental health such as stepping up action against intimate partner violence and abuse and neglect of children and older people; enabling nurturing care for early childhood development, making available livelihood support for people with mental health conditions, introducing social and emotional learning programmes while countering bullying in schools, shifting attitudes and strengthen rights in mental health care, increasing access to green spaces, and banning highly hazardous pesticides that are associated with one fifth of all suicides in the world.

3. Strengthen mental health care by changing where, how, and by whom mental health care is delivered and received.

Building community-based networks of interconnected services that move away from custodial care in psychiatric hospitals and cover a spectrum of care and support through a combination of mental health services that are integrated in general health care; community mental health services; and services beyond the health sector.

Diversifying and scaling up care options for common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, which has a 5 to 1 benefit – cost ratio. Such scale up includes adopting a task-sharing approach that expands the evidence-based care to be offered also by general health workers and community providers. It also includes using digital technologies to support guided and unguided self-help and to deliver remote care.

Source: Pan American Health Organization/SLT

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Our Editorial Staff at St. Lucia Times is a team publishing news and other articles to over 200,000 regular monthly readers in Saint Lucia and in over 150 other countries worldwide.

6 COMMENTS

  1. @LAB you are correct 100% – and I agree St. Lucia is 50+ behind. Those who are supposed to have the citizens interest at heart seem to ignore mental health in totality. In addition IGNORANT AND UNEDUCATED folk even resort to making fun of individuals with mental issues calling them MAD thereby furthering the depression, isolation and stigma. There are over 200 types of mental health disorders. It is high time for St. Lucia to wake up my God it’s 2022 and you guys are going nowhere fast…smh

    I just read of a young man (teenager) in Baboneau who left a note saying you will find me at the back of a house (he hung himself). Someone clearly missed the mark – sometimes what St. Lucians perceive as troublesome or very quiet/isolated could be someone crying out for help. Your teachers are not even trained to recognize mental health issues in their students…smh. Parents you also have a HUGE responsibility to your children – please invest in their well being – put carnival on the back burden and invest in your children’s welfare instead.

  2. @ Heartbroken and @ Truth be told … both of you have HIT THE NAILS squarely on their heads!! Unfortunately, Mental Health in St Lucia is over 50 years (or more) behind.

  3. Unfortunately, mental health in SLU is treated with a don’t carish flip of the wrist! I have always said, and will keep saying it: St Lucia is 50 years behind where progress is concerned. All we seem to care about is “the party – and their colours”. Time to get off our asses and do what needs to be done. Mental health in St Lucia is far more worse than it has ever been – with rising suicides, manic depression, Alzheimer’s dementia, hypertension, stress and anxiety, and more, not being spoken about, and worse – not being realised.

    @Fire and Brimstone … wake up and smell the education (not the science)!! Education is knowledge, knowledge is power!

  4. Speaking as a person who has experienced the heartbreak of losing of a very dear loved one in St Lucia to a mental health condition, I urge the Government bodies responsible to develop and implement better training and knowledge among mental health workers in their capacities as doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, community nurses, counsellors, and social workers etc. There is also also a huge need for individual, family and community support programs. There are serious failings at the ironically-named Centre which is supposed to help people with psychological and psychiatric conditions. Medication is all that seems to be provided. There is no follow up support, just a review of medications after one month. During Covid this was extended to three months!!! If there are support programs (very rare) they are not readily accessible, nor even made known to the individual, or their families. Community members too have a role to play, and not shun those who suffer from these illnesses. Understanding and seeking the right help when someone is not mentally well, are essential for good outcomes. When people are stigmatised, it only makes their condition worse. It’s unfortunate too that police are the official first responders when a person is suffering a mental episode, and not those trained in mental health (unless of course the person is violent or dangerous). It is a medical issue not a criminal one. A lot of despair, could be prevented if those who work in this field, worked together to develop support programs and individual patient plans, as well as community education. In my experience, any concerns raised or suggestions made, are met with little interest from those who chose this branch of medicine as their profession. Of course it requires resources, but the government can be lobbied by the profession and the community, if better outcomes are to ever happen. I really wonder if there is any actual sense of care or accountability when it comes to mental wellness in this country… I know that a few simple things could have saved the life of someone who was a decent and kind individual, who would have had many productive years ahead, and who was dearly loved – a terrible and tragic loss. Mental health affects everyone, not only the family but the community at large. Something needs to be done now or many more lives will be lost in St Lucia, and many more families will be left with a sense of helplessness and suffer permanent emotional scars…

  5. Insofar as attending to these urgent recommendations put forward by the WHO in furtherance of the Mental Health of the population, our nation will not take the steps that need to taken until the voters educate themselves sufficiently on this matter– and hold the politicians feet to the fire! The leaders must inform the populace of the steps they have taken, or are taking, and they must answer serious questions intelligently in appropriate forums such as at real press conferences and community/town hall meetings — NOT PARLIAMENT! Chances are the politicians know that the odds are on their side that the people will not hold them accountable to move expeditiously on this matter, in which case we will simply experience more of the same as a country. Should that be the case, it is the nation that will suffer loss.

    • Our governments don’t move until UN world government says so, which means we have no government to account for nada. Those unelected psychopaths over the seas don’t care about us, they follow science and science follows money.

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