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On World Mental Health Day, Ban urges greater resources for mental disorders

Article / Review by on October 10, 2011 – 10:22 pmNo Comments

On World Mental Health Day, Ban urges greater resources for mental disorders

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urgedthe world to allocate more resources for the treatment of mental disorders, saying that too little funding was devoted to mental health despite the debilitating nature of the illnesses and the fact they can be prevented or treated effectively.

A woman poses in front of a graffiti representing the sun on the occasion of the observance of the World Mental Health Day.
A woman poses in front of a graffiti representing the sun on the occasion of the observance of the World Mental Health Day.

“Deaths, disability and distress caused by mental disorders need to find their rightful place in the public health agenda,” said Mr. Ban said in a message to mark World Mental Health Day, whose theme this year is “investing in mental health.”

“There is no health without mental health,” said the Secretary-General, noting that mental disorders are responsible for 13 per cent of the global disease burden. “Resources allocated for mental health by governments and civil society are habitually too little, both in human and financial terms.”

According to the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), one in four people will require mental health care at some point in their lives, yet on average, global spending on mental health is still less than $3 per capita per year.

In low-income countries, expenditure can be as little as $0.25 per person per year, according to WHO’s Mental Health Atlas 2011 released today.

The global economic downturn and associated fiscal austerity measures have resulted in rising incidence of mental ill-health across the world, a situation exacerbated by the fact that the mental problems often place severe financial burden on individuals and households, Mr. Ban pointed out.

Individuals with mental health problems and their families endure stigma, discrimination and victimization, depriving them of their political and civil rights and constraining their ability to participate in the public life of their societies, the Secretary-General added.

“We cannot expect improvement in global mental health statistics unless we increase financial and other support for promoting mental health and providing adequate services to those who need them,” he said.

“Feasible, affordable and cost-effective measures for preventing and treating mental disorders exist, and are being implemented, for example through WHO’s Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP).

“However, if we are to move decisively from evidence to action, we need strong leadership, enhanced partnerships and the commitment of new resources. Let us pledge today to invest in mental health. The returns will be substantial,” said Mr. Ban.

According to the atlas, the bulk of resources earmarked for mental health are often spent on services that serve relatively few people.

“Governments tend to spend most of their scarce mental health resources on long-term care at psychiatric hospitals,” said Ala Alwan, WHO Assistant Director-General of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health.

“Today, nearly 70 per cent of mental health spending goes to mental institutions. If countries spent more at the primary care level, they would be able to reach more people, and start to address problems early enough to reduce the need for expensive hospital care.”

Mental health services should focus equally on providing patients with a combination of medicines and psychosocial care, but in lower-income countries, shortages of resources and skills often result in patients only being treated with medicines. The lack of psychosocial care reduces the effectiveness of the treatment.

Across the low-and middle-income group of countries, more than three quarters of people in need of mental health care do not even receive the most basic services, according to WHO.

“Almost half of the world’s population lives in a country where, on average, there is one psychiatrist (or less) to serve 200,000 people,” said Shekhar Saxena, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. “Many low-income countries have less than one mental health specialist per one million population.”

WHO launched mhGAP in 2008 to assist countries to scale up services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders. The programme provides knowledge and skills to health-care providers such as doctors, nurses and health-care workers to identify and manage these disorders.

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Ban Ki-moon is the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Ban Ki-moon is the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations. His priorities have been to mobilize world leaders around a set of new global challenges, from climate change and economic upheaval to pandemics and increasing pressures involving food, energy and water. He has sought to be a bridge-builder, to give voice to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, and to strengthen the Organization itself.“I grew up in war”, the Secretary-General has said, “and saw the United Nations help my country to recover and rebuild.  That experience was a big part of what led me to pursue a career in public service.  As Secretary-General, I am determined to see this Organization deliver tangible, meaningful results that advance peace, development and human rights.”Mr. Ban took office on 1 January 2007. Highlights of his tenure have included:

Promoting sustainable development
One of the Secretary-General’s first major initiatives was the 2007 Climate Change Summit, followed by extensive diplomatic efforts that have helped put the issue at the forefront of the global agenda.  Subsequent efforts to focus on the world’s main anti-poverty targets, the Millennium Development Goals, have generated more than $60 billion in pledges, with a special emphasis on Africa and the new Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health.  At the height of the food, energy and economic crises in 2008, the Secretary-General successfully appealed to the G20 for a $1 trillion financing package for developing countries and took other steps to guide the international response and protect the vulnerable and poor.

Empowering women
The Secretary-General pressed successfully for the creation of UN Women, a major new agency that consolidates the UN’s work in this area.  His advocacy for women’s rights and gender equality has also included the “Unite to End Violence against Women” campaign, the “Stop Rape Now” initiative, the creation of a “Network of Men Leaders” and the establishment of a new Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  Within the UN itself, the Secretary-General has increased the number of women in senior management positions by more than 40 per cent, reaching the highest level in the Organization’s history.

Supporting countries facing crisis or instability
The Secretary-General has sought to strengthen UN peace efforts, including through the New Horizons peacekeeping initiative, the Global Field Support Strategy and the Civilian Capacity Review, a package of steps to improve the impact of the 120,000 United Nations “blue helmets” operating in the world’s conflict zones. A mediation support unit, along with new capacity to carry out the Secretary-General’s good offices, have been set up to help prevent, manage and resolve tensions, conflicts and crises.  Accountability for violations of human rights has received high-level attention through inquiries related to Gaza, Guinea, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, legal processes in Lebanon and Cambodia, and advocacy for the “responsibility to protect,” the new United Nations norm aimed at prevent and halt genocide and other grave crimes.  He has also sought to strengthen humanitarian response in the aftermath of mega-disasters in Myanmar (2008), Haiti (2010) and Pakistan (2010), and mobilized UN support for the democratic transitions in North Africa and the Middle East.

Generating new momentum on disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation
The Secretary-General has sought to rejuvenate the disarmament agenda through a five-point plan, efforts to break the deadlock at the Conference on Disarmament and renewed attention to nuclear safety and security in the aftermath of the tragedy at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Strengthening the UN
The Secretary-Generalhas introduced new measures aimed at making the United Nations more transparent, effective and efficient.  These include heightened financial disclosure requirements, compacts with senior managers, harmonization of business practices and conditions of service, the adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards, and continued investments in information technology and staff development.

Personal
The Secretary-General was born in the Republic of Korea on 13 June 1944.  He received a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Seoul National University in 1970. In 1985, he earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.At the time of his election as Secretary-General, Mr. Ban was his country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. His 37 years of service with the Ministry included postings in New Delhi, Washington D.C. and Vienna, and responsibility for a variety of portfolios, including Foreign Policy Adviser to the President, Chief National Security Adviser to the President, Deputy Minister for Policy Planning and Director-General of American Affairs.Mr. Ban’s ties to the United Nations date back to 1975, when he worked for the Foreign Ministry’s United Nations Division. That work expanded over the years, with assignments that included service as Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization and Chef de Cabinet during the Republic of Korea’s 2001-2002 presidency of the UN General Assembly.  Mr. Ban has also been actively involved in issues relating to inter-Korean relations.The Secretary-General speaks English, French and Korean. He and his wife, Madam Yoo (Ban) Soon-taek, whom he met in high school in 1962, have one son, two daughters and three grandchildren.  Since 2007, Mrs. Ban has devoted her attention to women’s and children’s health, including autism, the elimination of violence against women, and the campaign to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.

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> United Nations (UN). The UN in Brief.

Most of us have heard about United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance. But the many other ways the UN affects all our lives are not always so well known. This website takes a look at the United Nations — how it is set up and what it does — to illustrate how it works to make the world a better place for all people.

The General Assembly in session.

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN Eskinder Debebe.

The UN is central to global efforts to solve problems that challenge humanity. Cooperating in this effort are more than 30 affiliated organizations, known together as the UN system. Day in and day out, the UN and its family of organizations work to promote respect for human rights, while also promoting gender equality and the advancement of women, protecting the environment, fighting disease and reducing poverty. UN agencies define the standards for safe and efficient air travel and help improve telecommunications and enhance consumer protection. The United Nations leads the international campaigns against drug trafficking and terrorism. Throughout the world, the UN and its agencies assist refugees, set up programmes to clear landmines, help expand food production and lead the fight against AIDS.

In September 2000, Member States, represented at the highest level — including 147 Heads of State and Government — expressed their collective vision in the Millennium Declaration. They set out measurable goals in every area of UN endeavour — the Millennium Development Goals. In September 2008, world leaders renewed commitments to achieving those Goals by 2015 and set out concrete plans and practical steps for action.

The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

The United Nations is not a world government and it does not make laws. It does, however, provide the means to help resolve international conflicts and formulate policies on matters affecting all of us. At the UN, all the Member States — large and small, rich and poor, with differing political views and social systems — have a voice and a vote in this process.

The United Nations has six main organs. Five of them — the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council and the Secretariat — are based at UN Headquarters in New York. The sixth, the International Court of Justice, is located at The Hague in the Netherlands.

*  The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

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