By Aisha Tamba
The World Health Organisation’s new Mental Health Atlas report has painted a disappointing picture of 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, provides 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 are aligned with needs.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, 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.”
According to the report, a lack of progress in leadership, governance and financing in mental health issues triggered the increase.
“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,” the report said.
It added that “in 2020, just 51 percent 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 percent target. And only 52 percent of countries met the target relating to mental health promotion and prevention programmes, also well below the 8 percent target. The only 2020 target met was a reduction in the rate of suicide by 10 percent, but even then, only 35 countries said they had a stand-alone prevention strategy, policy or plan.”
Nevertheless, it said steady progress was evident in the adoption of mental health policies, plans and laws and
in improvements in 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 percent. Moreover, even when policies and plans included estimates of required human and financial resources, just 39 percent of responding countries indicated that the necessary human resources had been allocated and 34 percent that the required financial resources had been provided.”