WHO report highlights global shortfall in investment in mental health

SWITZERLAND – The World Health Organization’s new Mental Health Atlas has shown a disappointing picture of the global failure to provide people with the necessary mental health services, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the growing need to support mental health.

The World Health Organization’s new Mental Health Atlas provides an unpleasant picture of the global failure to provide people with the necessary mental health services, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the growing need to support mental health.

The latest edition of the Atlas, which includes data from 171 countries, provides a clear indication that the increased attention paid to mental health in recent years has not yet resulted in an increase in the quality of needs-oriented mental services.

The biennial atlas is a collection of data provided by countries around the world on mental health policies, legislation, funding, human resources, availability and use of services, and data collection systems. It is also a mechanism for monitoring progress towards the goals of the WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan.

“It is extremely worrying that, despite the evident and growing need for mental health services, which became even more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic, good intentions are not being met by investment,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, none of the goals for effective mental health leadership and management, the provision of mental health services in community settings, the promotion and prevention of mental health, and the strengthening of information systems are close to being achieved.

In 2020, only 51% of the 194 WHO member states reported that their mental health policy or plan was in line with international and regional human rights instruments, far from the 80% target.

Yet, only 52% of countries have met the target of mental health promotion and prevention programs, also well below the 80% target. The only goal for 2020 was to reduce the suicide rate by 10%, but even then, only 35 countries said they had a stand-alone strategy, policy or prevention plan.

Although the WHO has long recommended the systematic decentralization of mental health care to the environment, only 25% of countries responded met all the criteria for integrating mental health into primary care.

Although progress has been made in training and supervision in most countries, the supply of medicines for mental health and psychosocial care in primary health care remains limited.

The global targets reported in the Mental Health Atlas are from the WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan, which contained the 2020 targets approved by the World Health Assembly in 2013.

This plan has now been extended to 2030 and includes new goals to include mental health, health and psychosocial support in emergency preparedness plans, the integration of mental health into primary health care, and mental health research.

The Atlas has been released a few days shy of the World Mental Health Day, which is marked on October 10 and which, this year focuses on increasing access to quality mental health care.

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