V World Summit on Mental Health: PAHO Director urges guaranteed access to services and care without stigma or discrimination

V World Summit on Mental Health

Buenos Aires, 5 October 2023 (PAHO/WHO)- The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Jarbas Barbosa today urged countries to ensure that “all people have access to quality mental health care and services, based on human rights and free of stigma and discrimination.” Speaking at the inauguration of the 5th World Mental Health Summit in Buenos Aires, the first to be held in the Region of the Americas, the PAHO Director also called for the issue of suicide to be “urgently addressed.”  

This objective "requires multisectoral alliances and increased investment, but as it is a cross-cutting issue for all health and non-health sectors, it must also be integrated into all policies to effectively strengthen mental health promotion, prevention and care," the PAHO Director said.

Accompanied by the President of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, the Minister of Health of Argentina, Carla Vizzotti; and the Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Robert Mardini, Dr. Barbosa warned that the COVID-19 pandemic, humanitarian crises, climate change, conflicts, violence and growing inequalities all have an impact on mental health.

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was also present at the summit via video, as was Executive Director of UNICEF, Catherine Russel.

During the inauguration, President Fernandez underscored that while mental health is a growing issue, it remains taboo, which is why "paying attention to mental health is imperative and necessary".

The Americas "experiences an enormous burden of disability-adjusted life years due to mental health conditions, and is the only Region in the world where the suicide rate has increased in the last two decades," Dr. Barbosa said.

The PAHO Director also highlighted that "many people living with mental health conditions, particularly those in vulnerable situations, lack access to the necessary care in their communities and are subject to stigma, discrimination and marginalization.  This is why many countries of the Region have implemented a reform of their mental health services towards community-based care.

At the end of his presentation, Dr. Barbosa expressed hope that that the summit will result  in "productive discussions and concrete recommendations that highlight the way forward, as well as new and strengthened opportunities for global collaboration on this critical health and development issue".