“Mental illness is an equal-opportunity illness. Every one of us is impacted by mental illness. One in five adults are dealing with this illness, and many are not seeking help because the stigma prevents that.” ~Margaret Larson
In 2001, the World Health Organization reported that more than 154 million people globally suffer from depression, 25 million from Schizophrenia; 91 million people are affected by alcohol-use related disorders and 15 million by drug-use disorder. World Health Organization predicts that one in four people will develop a mental illness in their lifetime, which translates to approximately 1.7 billion people.
WHO Mental Health Report, 2001 estimates that Schizophrenia, Depression, Epilepsy, Dementia, Alcohol dependence, Neurological and Substance-abuse disorders constitute 13% of the global burden of disease, surpassing both cardiovascular disease and cancer1. While alcohol and illicit drug use account for more than 5% of global disease burden. Not only that, WHO has now identified Depression as the third leading disease contributor.
Clearly the public health professionals are staring at a humanitarian crisis of gigantic proportions. The crisis has clearly attracted world attention, and in turn the policymakers and World Health Organization (WHO) recently adopted a comprehensive ‘Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020’ in May 2013.
The Action Plan can be described as a “perfect blend” of several ingredients like good ideas and concepts. The Act emphasizes the human rights of affected persons and endorses a community-based approach to deal with such issues. This plan identifies the global burden of mental disorders and adopts a resolution on the need for a comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach implemented at the country level. The Action plan puts emphasis on promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, care and recovery.
The heart of the action plan addresses the core issue of social stigma and discrimination faced not only by the person suffering from mental disorder but also the family and community. The plan acknowledges that the impact of discrimination is felt not only at personal level, but also at social and occupational levels.
The plan builds upon, but does not duplicate, the work of WHO’s Mental Health Gap Action programme (mhGAP). It focuses to expand services for mental health in low-resource settings, while addressing the implementation of all resource settings, promotion and prevention strategies. This plan adopts the notion of recovery, empowerment, education opportunities, non-medical treatment approach and social determinants like respected civil society, quality of life. In additional prevention strategies adopted for Dementia, substance abuse, suicide prevention and epilepsy, so called “vulnerable group”.
The four major objectives of the action plan are to:
- Strengthen effective leadership and governance for mental health
- Provide comprehensive, integrated and responsive mental health and social care services in community-based settings.
- Implement strategies for promotion and prevention in mental health.
- strengthen information systems, evidence and research for mental health.1
The action plan, which is non-obligatory, outlines specific actions for Member States, international, regional and national level partners, and the Secretariat. In addition, the plan includes several indicators and targets, such as targeting a 20% increase in service coverage for severe mental disorders and a 10% reduction of the suicide rate in countries by the year 2020, which will be used to evaluate levels of implementation, progress and impact2.
The important question is – how soon can the plan translate into real change in the lives of millions who are affected by mental disorders?
1 WHO Mental Health Report 2001
2 66th World Health Assembly WHA66.8 Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013–2020
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