World falls short on mental health goals: WHO

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also weighed in, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on mental health worldwide, and action must be taken to “redress the glaring inequalities exposed by the pandemic”, including over access to vital services.

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UNITED NATIONS, A World Health Organization (WHO) report released on the eve of World Mental Health Day, which is marked on Sunday, says that the world is falling short on its mental health investment goals, calling the lack of progress a “worldwide failure.”

According to the WHO’s Mental Health Atlas, released every three years, data from 171 countries shows that none of the body’s targets have been met for investing in mental health, ensuring community-based mental health services are available, awareness promotion, and strengthening information systems.

“We must heed and act on this wake-up call and dramatically accelerate the scale-up of investment in mental health, because there is no health without mental health,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“It is extremely concerning that, despite the evident and increasing need for mental health services, which has become even more acute during the Covid-19 pandemic, good intentions are not being met with investment.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also weighed in, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on mental health worldwide, and action must be taken to “redress the glaring inequalities exposed by the pandemic”, including over access to vital services

Reminding that millions of people face grief over lost family members and friends, that many are anxious over job security, and that older people may experience isolation and loneliness, Guterres said that “without determined action, the mental health impact may last far longer than the pandemic itself”.

In his message for the Day, the UN chief also highlighted that children and adolescents “may feel alienated and distressed” and called for action to address the inequality in access to mental health services.

WHO reported that the percentage of public funding that governments around the world spend on mental healthcare hovers around 2% “scarcely changed during the last [two] years,” even as studies have shown the coronavirus pandemic’s “negative impact on the economy and mental health worldwide.”

Three years ago, WHO set targets that 80% of its 194 member nations would have a mental health policy or plan in line with international human rights agreements and an awareness promotion or mental health crisis prevention program in place. Those goals were met by just 52% and 51% of countries, respectively.

Only 35 countries reported that they have a “stand-alone prevention strategy, policy or plan” to reduce rates of suicide, 77% of which happen in low- to middle-income countries.

Those same nations saw less improvement than wealthy countries in the number of people employed in mental health services. The number of mental health workers was more than 40 times greater in high-income countries.

“It is extremely concerning that, despite the evident and increasing need for mental health services, which has become even more acute during the Covid-19 pandemic, good intentions are not being met with investment,” Tedros said.

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