WHO urges countries to invest in psychiatric care

WHO urges countries to invest in psychiatric care

WHO urges countries to invest in psychiatric care

/ SOCIETE / Saturday, 16 October 2021 20:36

source photo: healthday

By Kabakura Jean Bosco Ceusi

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on governments to allocate the money needed to increase access to mental health treatment. On the occasion  of the World Mental Health Day  Sunday last, WHO has published a new Mental Health Atlas.

Data collected from 171 countries show none of the World Health Assembly targets for the provision of mental health care by 2020 has been achieved. Therefore, WHO decided to extend   its Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan to 2030.

Fahmy Hanna is a technical officer in WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Use. He told nation media group that lack of money is a major reason these goals have been missed. He says that governments allocate just 2.1% of their overall health budgets to mental health services.

In his opinion, « in the majority of the countries, most of this budget goes to psychiatric hospitals and long-stay, in-patient facilities instead of being spent on community-based mental health services which are more human-rights-oriented, less decentralized, and more accessible to the population » .

WHO reports that more than a billion people  suffer from mental health illness at global level. The most common of such illnesses include anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar and eating disorders, as well as psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia.

The data published in the atlas were collected in 2019 and reflect the status of pre-pandemic mental health services. However, health officials agree that COVID-19 is having a major impact on people’s mental health and more investments must be made in treating them.

Mr. Hanna says WHO has carried out two surveys during the pandemic. They  show major disruptions in services offered to people suffering from neurological illnesses and substance abuse.

“At the time, where there was cause for scaling up mental health services around the world, we discovered from data of the surveys  conducted in 2021 that actually 23% of countries have reported scaling back their community-based mental health services,” he added.

Besides the human costs, WHO says skimping on investing in mental health makes no economic sense. It says that lost productivity from depression and anxiety alone, two of the most common mental health disorders, costs the global economy $1 trillion each year. However, it notes that for every dollar invested in treating these conditions,  there is a return of $5.


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