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WHO director-general speaks to the media

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, speaks at a press conference in Kuwait on July 28, 2021. (Photo: Jaber Abdulkhaleg/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

WHO Condemns 'Worldwide Failure' as Countries Spend Just 2% of Budgets on Mental Health

"We must heed and act on this wake-up call," said the head of the organization, "because there is no health without mental health."

Julia Conley

The World Health Organization on Friday said global policymakers are failing to provide people with the mental healthcare investments they need, in what the head of the United Nations agency called a "worldwide failure."
 
According to the WHO's Mental Health Atlas, released every three years, data from 171 countries shows that none of the body's targets have been met for investing in mental health, ensuring community-based mental health services are available, awareness promotion, and strengthening information systems.
 
 
"We must heed and act on this wake-up call and dramatically accelerate the scale-up of investment in mental health, because there is no health without mental health," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"It is extremely concerning that, despite the evident and increasing need for mental health services, which has become even more acute during the Covid-19 pandemic, good intentions are not being met with investment."

 
The percentage of public funding that governments around the world spend on mental healthcare hovers around 2%, WHO reported—"scarcely changed during the last [two] years," even as studies have shown the coronavirus pandemic's "negative impact on the economy and mental health worldwide."
 
Three years ago, WHO set targets that 80% of its 194 member nations would have a mental health policy or plan in line with international human rights agreements and an awareness promotion or mental health crisis prevention program in place. Those goals were met by just 52% and 51% of countries, respectively.
 
Only 35 countries reported that they have a "stand-alone prevention strategy, policy or plan" to reduce rates of suicide, 77% of which happen in low- to middle-income countries.
 
Those same nations saw less improvement than wealthy countries in the number of people employed in mental health services. The number of mental health workers was more than 40 times greater in high-income countries.
 
"It is extremely concerning that, despite the evident and increasing need for mental health services, which has become even more acute during the Covid-19 pandemic, good intentions are not being met with investment," Tedros said.
 
The report was released ahead of World Mental Health Day, which is being marked on Sunday and has the theme "Mental Health in an Unequal World" this year.

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