Underfunding Hampering Efforts to Tackle COVID Mental Health Crisis

The World Federation for Mental Health will kick off the build up to 2020 World Mental Health Day as fear grow over the ability to support millions of people whose mental health has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 1 September the Federation’s is launching the 2020 World Mental Health Day Campaign Educational Material “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access” which will begin 45 days of awareness-raising activities.

Mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health. Close to 1 billion people are living with a mental disorder, 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. Currently, billions of people around the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people’s mental health. With the world’s businesses looking to bring staff back into offices the issue is expected to be a significant priority for management as they deal with staff concerns over COVID-19.

“It is nearly 30 years since the first World Mental Health Day was launched by the World Federation for Mental Health,” said Dr Ingrid Daniels, President of the World Federation of Mental Health. “During that time, we have seen an increasing openness to talk about mental health in many countries of the world. But now we must turn words into actions. We need to see concerted efforts being made to build mental health systems that are appropriate and relevant for today’s – and tomorrow’s – world.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned relatively few people around the world have access to quality mental health services. In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75% of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders receive no treatment for their condition at all. Furthermore, stigma, discrimination, punitive legislation and human rights abuses are still widespread.

It added the limited access to quality, affordable mental health care in the world before the pandemic, and particularly in humanitarian emergencies and conflict settings, has been further diminished due to COVID-19 as the pandemic has disrupted health services around the world. Primary causes have been infection and the risk of infection in long-stay facilities such as care homes and psychiatric institutions; barriers to meeting people face-to-face; mental health staff being infected with the virus; and the closing of mental health facilities to convert them into care facilities for people with COVID-19.

This year’s World Mental Health Day, will see the WHO, United for Global Mental Health and the World Federation for Mental Health, call for a massive scale-up in investment in mental health.

“World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for the world to come together and begin redressing the historic neglect of mental health,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “We are already seeing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s mental well-being, and this is just the beginning. Unless we make serious commitments to scale up investment in mental health right now, the health, social and economic consequences will be far-reaching.”

Countries spend on average only 2% of their health budgets on mental health. Despite some increases in recent years, international development assistance for mental health has never exceeded 1% of all development assistance for health. This is despite the fact that for every $1 invested in scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, there is a return of $5 in improved health and productivity.

“With so many people lacking access to good quality, appropriate mental health services, investment is needed now more than ever,” said Elisha London, Founder and CEO of United for Global Mental Health. “Everyone everywhere can participate in this year’s campaign. Whether you have struggled with your own mental health, know someone who has been affected, are a mental health expert, or if you simply believe that investing in mental health is the right thing to do, move for mental health, and help make mental health care and support accessible for everyone.”

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