Why is mental health such a low priority for the UN?

Posted by Gulbenkian

Why is mental health such a low priority for the UN?

Imagine a health problem that affects one in six of us, that has a deep and damaging impact on our family and working lives, where effective treatments are available, and yet where only about a quarter of people with this condition get any treatment. Is this a scandal of neglect affecting people with cancer or heart disease diabetes? No – this is the real situation for people with mental health problems in Britain today. These conditions span the range from autism to alcohol use disorders, and from depression to dementia. More than 50 years ago when mothers suffered from post-natal depression in England, they were given electroconvulsive therapy to aid their recovery. Yet there is little evidence that we treat provide better mental health treatment now than we did then.

In global terms, the United Nations plays a leading role in identifying which health conditions are the highest priority. In 2000, 189 countries made a commitment to help achieve the eight millennium development goals (MDGs) by 2015. Three of these goals were to do with health: to reduce child mortality; to improve maternal health; and to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. None referred to mental illness.

In the field of mental health we work with colleagues in many countries of the world and repeatedly find that Ministry of Health staff tell us that it “is not a priority”. The consequence is that although mental health problems are responsible for almost a quarter of all the disability in world, the poorest countries dedicate just 0.5% of their health budgets to mental health. But this under-investment is not because resources are scarce in these poor countries, where up to two-thirds of people with physical illnesses such as diabetes do get treatment. The scale of this neglect of people with mental illness is truly breathtaking.

Governments and international donors do listen to the priorities agreed by the United Nations. There is a very important opportunity now to make sure that the new goals, for the period after 2015, will clearly address the needs of people with mental illness. Now in the final stages of their drafting, these sustainable development goals (SDGs) refer to 17 areas of health, economic or environmental progress. At the moment just one phrase of one “target” of one “goal” mentions mental health at all, with no specific indicators given about how to measure progress. Why is mental health seen as such as a low priority by the United Nations?

Check the whole paper here.

A- A A+
There are currently four ways to purchase antibiotics without first obtaining a prescription. You may drive to Mexico, buy them online, buy them in an ethnic market, or buy them in a pet store.
Scroll To Top