The World Health Organization is calling for members in the South-East Asia Region to do more for quality mental health. They’re asking for countries to match the recently adopted Declaration on universal access to people-centered mental health care and services, as well as make World Mental Health Day about more than just raising awareness.
Impact of COVID on Mental Health
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.
“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 percent globally, and cases of anxiety disorders by more than 25 percent, adding to the 1 billion people who were already living with a mental disorder,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh.
‘An estimated 1 in 7 people live with a mental health condition in S. E. Asia, In countries where data is available, treatment gap ranged from 70-95 percent.’
She added further that in many countries, this occurred alongside widespread disruptions to mental health services. Between November and December 2021, more than 33 percent 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-centered 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 recognizes 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.