In his message marking World Mental Health Day, the UN chief said there were “profound” social and economic repercussions stemming from that neglect, explaining that some countries have only two mental health workers for every 100,000 people.
Anxiety and depression also take a heavy financial toll, costing the global economy an estimated $1 trillion per year.
Step up support
“We must strengthen the capacity of health services to offer quality care to those in need, in particular young people,” spelled out the top UN official, encouraging community-based services and integrating mental health support into broader health and social care.
“Investing in mental wellbeing means investing in healthy and prosperous communities”.
Stigma and discrimination, which prevent social inclusion, must also be addressed along with breaking down the barriers that stop people from seeking care and support.
“And we must prevent the root causes of mental health conditions, including violence and abuse,” he continued, assuring that the UN is committed to working with partners to promote mental wellbeing.
Mr. Guterres underscored the importance of making mental health “a global priority” and for urgent action to enable everyone, everywhere access to quality mental healthcare.
As COVID continues to take its toll, the World Health Organization (WHO) is advocating for everyone to reconnect and re-kindle efforts to protect and improve mental health.
Even before the pandemic, in 2019, an estimated one in eight people globally were living with a mental disorder.
However, COVID has triggered a global mental health crisis, fueling short and long-term stresses and undermining the mental health of millions.
During the first year of the pandemic, WHO estimated a surge of more than 25 per cent in both anxiety and depression-related disorders.
At the same time, it has severely disrupted mental health services and widened the treatment gap, with skills and funding in short supply, especially in low and middle-income countries.
And growing social and economic inequalities, protracted conflicts, violence, and public health emergencies are affecting the well-being of whole populations.
During 2021, a staggering 84 million people were forcibly displaced.
“We must deepen the value and commitment we give to mental health as individuals, communities and governments and match that value with more commitment, engagement and investment by all stakeholders, across all sectors,” WHO underscored.
“We must strengthen mental healthcare so that the full spectrum of mental health needs is met through a community-based network of accessible, affordable and quality services and supports”.
World Cup boost
To promote mental health and well-being, including through physical activity and sport, WHO and the Government of Qatar have developed an exciting new initiative linked to the FIFA World Cup which starts next month, they announced on Monday.
Thirty-two so-called “Friendship Benches” – one for each of the nations taking part in the festival of world football – are being built and installed around prominent locations in Doha, including one for each of the precincts of the various tournament stadiums.
The project aligns with common goals and campaigns that are on-going, including the FIFA-WHO #REACHOUT campaign; the “Are You OK?” project of the Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health; and the groundbreaking Friendship Benches project itself, originally developed in Zimbabwe and supported by WHO.
“The bench is a simple yet powerful vehicle for promoting mental health, from park benches where people gather to football stadiums where players and staff watch their teams play for the joy and promise of sport and success,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
He described it as “a powerful reminder…[that] physical health is precious and common to all people and nations, and how, through sports, people can reach out to others, as fellow human beings, in the spirt of solidarity and support.”