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Call for 'Serious Commitment to Improve Mental Health' Print E-mail

"We need to move ahead with a serious commitment to improve mental health," said Pan American Health Organization Deputy Director Dr. Cristina Beato today at the launch of The Lancet's Global Mental Health series in the Americas. 

Call for 'Serious Commitment to Improve Mental Health'

Washington, D.C., May 7, 2008 (PAHO)—"We need to move ahead with a serious commitment to improve mental health," said Pan American Health Organization Deputy Director Dr. Cristina Beato today at the launch of The Lancet's Global Mental Health series in the Americas.


From the left: Dr. Ron C. Kessler, Harvard Medical School; Dr. Robert Freedman, chief editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry; Dr. Maja Zecevic, The Lancet; Dr. David Satcher, Morehouse School of Medicine; Dr. Cristina Beato, PAHO; Dr. Eliot Sorel, The George Washington University; and Dr. Thomas Insel, National Institute of Mental Health. (Photo by Sonia M. Mey-PAHO/WHO)

"The key messages are clear: Mental health has been neglected, and the resources for it are inadequate, insufficient, and inadequately distributed," Dr. Beato said. Mental disorders affect one of every four persons, she said, and the disease burden from mental illness climbed from 8.8 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2002. "This is unacceptable, and it is imperative to reduce the gaps. Mental illness is not a personal failure, and mental health disorders can be treated like any other illness, with proper results," she said.

In its recent series on global mental health, the Lancet noted, "Despite the publication of high-profile reports and promising activities in several countries, progress in mental health service development has been slow in most low-income and middle-income countries."

Barriers to mental health service development, The Lancet noted in an article by Dr Benedetto Saraceno of the World Health Organization's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, are numerous and include the resistance to decentralization of mental health services. There are also "challenges to implementation of mental health care in primary-care settings, and low numbers and few types of workers who are trained and supervised in mental health care; and the frequent scarcity of public-health perspectives in mental health leadership."


From the left: Dr. Eliot Sorel, George Washington University; Dr. Rodolfo Rodríguez, PAHO; and Dr. Cristina Beato, PAHO's Deputy Director. (Photo by Sonia M. Mey-PAHO/WHO)

The launch of the Global Mental Health series at PAHO was organized by George Washington University's Department of Global Health, with PAHO, the American Psychiatric Association, and the World Psychiatric Association. Dr. Maja Zecevic of The Lancet and Dr. Eliot Sorel of George Washington University introduced the panelists, including such world experts as Dr. Vikram Patel of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine's Sangath Centre in India and Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health. Speakers also included former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher of the Morehouse School of Medicine, Dr. Ron C. Kessler of the Harvard School of Medicine and Dr. Robert Freedman, chief editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

About 500 million people suffer from neuropsychiatric disorders worldwide, and the prevalence of mental health disorders is increasing due to poverty, migration, conflicts, and natural disasters.

"There is a vast treatment gap and resources are very scarce in low and middle income countries," said Dr. Patel. "We need to make basic drugs available in primary health care settings and protect the human rights of people with mental disorders."


Dr. Vikram Patel, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Sangath Centre, Goa (India). (Photo by Sonia M. Mey-PAHO/WHO)

To scale up resources and provide evidence-based packages of services for people with mental disorders would cost about $2 per person per year in low-income countries, he said, and $3 to $4 in lower middle income countries.

"The Americas could become the model for integration of mental health and primary health care," George Washington University's Dr. Sorel said. "This is a historic moment, with the convergence of the evidence as laid out in the Lancet series. The Americas need this initiative."

The Lancet's Maya Zecevic said, "This is truly a global problem, and The Lancet's mental health series seeks to bring about a powerful, focused and multidisciplinary call for action. The Lancet group plans within the next two years to evaluate progress on efforts to increase public awareness, evidence-based research, strategies and policies conceived an implemented globally in the arena of mental health."

PAHO Publication:

PAHO, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 29 May 2008 07:55
 

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