mental health

Says world missed most 2020 targets

By Chioma Obinna

Despite the evident and increasing need for mental health services, the World Health Organisation,  WHO,  on Sunday expressed worry that governments across the world have failed to scale – up investments in mental health amid the COVID pandemic.

WHO in its new Mental Health Atlas painted a disappointing picture of a worldwide failure to provide people with mental health services they need, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting a growing need for mental health support.

The latest edition of the Atlas, which includes data from 171 countries, provided a clear indication that the increased attention given to mental health in recent years has yet to result in a scale-up of quality mental services that is aligned with needs. 

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The Atlas is a compilation of data provided by countries around the world on mental health policies, legislation, financing, human resources, availability and utilization of services and data collection systems

Reacting to the new report,  Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr 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.

“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.”

The report identified some of the challenges in mental health to include lack of progress in leadership, governance and financing, adding that, none of the targets for effective leadership and governance for mental health, provision of mental health services in community-based settings, mental health promotion and prevention, and strengthening of information systems were close to being achieved.

“In 2020, just 51 per cent of WHO’s 194 Member States reported that their mental health policy or plan was in line with international and regional human rights instruments, way short of the 80 per cent target. And only 52 per cent of countries met the target relating to mental health promotion and prevention programmes, also well below the 80 per cent target. The only 2020 target met was a reduction in the rate of suicide by 10 per cent, but even then, only 35 countries said they had a stand-alone prevention strategy, policy or plan.

“Steady progress was evident, however, in the adoption of mental health policies, plans and laws, as well as in improvements in the capacity to report on a set of core mental health indicators.

“However, the percentage of government health budgets spent on mental health has scarcely changed during the last years, still hovering around 2%. Moreover, even when policies and plans included estimates of required human and financial resources, just 39 per cent of responding countries indicated that the necessary human resources had been allocated and 34 per cent that the required financial resources had been provided.

Stating that transfer of care to the community was still slow, the report noted that while the systematic decentralization of mental health care to community settings has long been recommended by WHO, only 25 per cent of responding countries met all the criteria for integration of mental health into primary care.

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

The report also traced some of the challenges on government funding to mental health are allocation and highlighted the urgent need for deinstitutionalization.

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