Funding for and organization of mental health services are woefully inadequate to address the growing burden of mental health problems in countries throughout the Americas, experts said during a Nov. 10 panel discussion at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). As a consequence, effective treatment remains out of reach for millions who could benefit from it.
“In Latin America and the Caribbean, on average 60-65 % of people suffering mental health problems are not receiving any kind of care from the health services,” said Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, PAHO’s senior advisor on mental health. “The treatment gap is enormous. It’s one of the biggest challenges facing our region.”
“The wide gap that exists between those who need mental health care and those who receive it exists despite the fact that the means of intervention for this group of disorders are available,” said PAHO Assistant Director Socorro Gross. “Almost 20 years after the Declaration of Caracas, it is imperative that this gap be reduced.”
The Declaration of Caracas, signed by Latin American governments in 1990, called for legislative reforms to promote the rights of people with mental health problems and to restructure psychiatric care toward community-based and primary health care. Since then, nearly all countries in
One of the reasons for the current treatment gap is that the burden of mental health problems has increased in the Region over the past three decades. According to PAHO estimates, mental and neurological conditions have more than doubled their share of the total burden of disease in Latin America and the
Vijay Ganju, secretary general of the World Federation for Mental Health, noted the importance of collective action by experts and advocates to raise awareness of problems and solutions in mental health. Such efforts, he said, were responsible for getting mental health included in the final political declaration of the United Nations High Level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases in September. The declaration recognized “that mental and neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, are an important cause of morbidity and contribute to the global non-communicable disease burden, for which there is a need to provide equitable access to effective programs and health care interventions.”
Ganju urged continuing advocacy to keep mental health “on the table” at both the national and global levels.
This event was organized to observe World Mental Health Day, which officially took place on October 10.