WHO calls for making mental health priority for all

New Delhi: World Health Organisation has called on the member states in the South-East Asia Region to intensify action to achieve access for all to quality mental health care in line with the recently adopted Paro Declaration on universal access to people-centred mental health care and services on World Mental Health Day.

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, said that globally before the COVID-19 pandemic, around 1 in 8 people lived with a mental health condition. The gaps in treatment were unacceptably large, especially in low-and middle-income countries.

In the South-East Asia Region, an estimated 1 in 7 people lived with a mental health condition, and in countries where data are available, the treatment gap ranged from 70-95 per cent, she said.

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“The COVID-19 crisis has impacted almost all areas of health, but few as profoundly as mental health. In 2020, cases of major depressive disorder are estimated to have increased by more than 27 per cent globally, and cases of anxiety disorders by more than 25 per cent, adding to the 1 billion people who were already living with a mental disorder,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh.

She added further that in many countries, this occurred alongside widespread disruptions to mental health services. Between November and December 2021, more than 33 per cent of WHO member states globally reported ongoing disruptions to mental, neurological and substance use services.

At the 75th session of WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia in September 2022, the member countries committed to take bold, decisive action, unanimously adopting the Paro Declaration on universal access to people-centred mental health care and services to close remaining gaps and to accelerate pre-pandemic progress.

The Paro Declaration aims to ensure that all people in the region can access quality mental health care, close to where they live, without financial hardship. It places specific emphasis on the need to reorient and integrate mental health services into primary health care (PHC), complementing the new Regional Strategy for PHC, launched in December 2021.

The Paro Declaration recognises that mental health is a key determinant of social and economic development, an integral part of general health and well-being, and that access to care is a basic human right.

It aims to help all countries of the region build on and accelerate longstanding efforts to implement equitable mental health policies, laws, programmes and services in line with the Region’s Flagship Priorities on preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases, strengthening emergency risk management and achieving universal health coverage.

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