International efforts to increase global mental health
When we think of the top issues on the global scale, the list usually reads as follows: world peace, an end to hunger and increased prosperity in the far reaches of the earth. But what about mental health across our planet?
The latter is an issue worth international attention, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It states that depression affects 400 million people, making mental health diseases overall “the single largest contributor to years lived with disability globally.”
Mental health is a universal issue
According to the National Institutes of Health, as it concerns mental wellness, “all countries are developing countries.” WHO says the economic backlash of not treating mental health disorders costs $1 trillion internationally every year.
According to former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, founder of the Kennedy Forum and co-founder of One Mind, parity in mental health care is the first global hurdle.
“It’s against the law to discriminate against someone who has a brain illness,” he says of the U.S. and describes mental health parity as a medical civil rights issue across the globe.
It’s not so much that the world is going crazy, it’s that workers around the globe face harsh stigmas, and affected people have legitimate fears of losing a job or health insurance coverage if their mental health affliction becomes exposed. Many tribes and third-world countries still see some medical conditions as evil or supernatural and will exile a community member, or worse.
Shining a light on the problem
“We demanded action and it happened,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, M.D., in speaking of the worldwide HIV/AIDS campaign of the 1990s. “We need to put the same kind of energy and activism into mental health,” he affirmed.
This past April, the World Bank Group and the World Health Organization co-hosted a meeting on the climate of mental health worldwide, focusing on depression and anxiety. The summit, named “Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority,” was aimed to coincide with the events of other groups that could sponsor such global initiatives: The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group’s 2016 Spring Meetings. The agenda for the “Out of the Shadows” conference was succinct:
- To present the case for investing in feasible mental health strategies
- To identify real-world action and investment at the country, regional and global levels
- To mobilize a global coalition for action with depression and anxiety in primary care and community settings
The groups rallied finance ministers, investors, and technology innovators, illustrating specific social benefits of investing in mental health. WHO explained for every $1 spent on treating anxiety and depression, governments could receive a $4 return.
In subsequent meetings spinning off the “Out of the Shadows” conference, innovators, grantees and policymakers openly discussed challenges to addressing world mental health. One dominating hurdle was:
- Absence of trained local providers specialized in mental health care
Cross-training community laypersons to deliver health care interventions was suggested. Peer health workers with no formal mental health care could be trained to carry out psychological treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy for maternal depression. Therein arose another hiccup:
- How to ensure quality care in lower and middle-income countries
Experts highlighted that lay providers have an embedded understanding of the local community context and, being the embodiment of patient/provider concordance, can accelerate past many cultural barriers that clinicians from “the outside” face.
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About the author
Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.