It’s time to make neglected mental health a ‘global priority’, urges Guterres |

In his message to mark World Mental Health Day, the UN chief said there were “profound” social and economic consequences stemming from this neglect, explaining that some countries had only two psychiatrists for every 100,000 people.

Anxiety and depression also take a toll financially, costing the global economy about $1 trillion a year.

Increase support

“We need to strengthen the capacity of health services to offer quality care to those in need, especially young people,” said the senior UN official, promoting community-based services and the integration of mental health support into wider health and social care.

“Investing in mental well-being means investing in healthy and prosperous communities.”

Stigma and discrimination that hinder social inclusion must also be addressed alongside removing barriers that stop people seeking care and support.

“And we should preventing the root causes of mental illnessincluding violence and abuse,” he continued, assuring that the UN was committed to working with partners to promote mental well-being.

Mr. Guterres stressed the importance of making mental health a “global priority” and of urgent action to enable everyone, everywhere, to access quality mental health care.

COVID effect

As COVID continues to take its toll, the World Health Organization (WHO) is advocating for everyone to reconnect and renew efforts to protect and improve mental health.

Even before the pandemic, in 2019, approximately one in eight people worldwide was living with a mental disorder.

However, COVID has sparked a global mental health crisis, fueling short- and long-term stress and undermining the mental health of millions.

In the first year of the pandemic, the WHO estimated a jump of more than 25 percent in both anxiety and depressive disorders.

At the same time, it has severely disrupted mental health services and widened the treatment gap, with shortages of skills and funding, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 25 percent increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide.

Global implications

And growing social and economic inequalities, protracted conflicts, violence and public health emergencies affect the well-being of the entire population.

In 2021, an astonishing 84 million people were forcibly displaced.

“We need to deepen the value and commitment we place on mental health as individuals, communities and governments, and match that value with more engagement, commitment and investment from all stakeholders in all sectors,” WHO stressed.

We need to step up mental health care so that the full spectrum of mental health needs is met through a community-based network of affordable, accessible and quality services and supports”.

World Cup Boost

To promote mental health and well-being, including through physical activity and sport, the 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 participating in the World Football Festival – are being built and installed around prominent locations in Doha, including one for each of the tournament’s various stadium areas.

The project is in line with common goals and ongoing campaigns, including the FIFA-WHO #REACHOUT campaign; “Are you okay?” a project of the Ministry of Public Health of Qatar; and the groundbreaking Friendship Benches project itself, originally developed in Zimbabwe and supported by the WHO.

“The bench is a simple but powerful tool to promote mental health, from benches in parks where people gather to football stadiums where players and staff watch their teams play for joy and the promise of sport and success,” said the head of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

He described it as “a powerful reminder…[that] Physical health is valuable and common to all people and nations and how through sport people can reach out to others as human beings in a spirit of solidarity and support.”

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