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Mental Health: Towards economic and social inclusion

May 23, 2013

This report, Mental Health: Towards economic and social inclusion, was written by Asia Australia Mental Health Co-Director A/Professor Chee Ng and presented to Commonwealth health ministers in Geneva on 19 May, 2013.

It identifies several key issues:

  • a lack of resources across many member nations to support and treat mental ill health
  • an enduring stigma associated with cultural understandings of psychiatric conditions
  • the economic impacts of implementing effective mental health interventions

Read the full report.

The Asia focus

There are eight Commonwealth countries in the Asia region. A common issue across many of these countries is the lack of resources in mental health with 6 of 8 countries having fewer than one psychiatrist per 100,000 population. The proportion of health budget expenditure on mental health throughout this region is generally less than one percent.

Without access to treatment, people with mental ill health struggle to participate in the formal workforce and this has national economic implications.

“The implementation of mental health interventions is associated with improved economic outcomes, in particular increased rates of employment.” says the report.

Each of the Asian Commonwealth countries also have their own diverse cultural characteristics. Family role, ethnicity, cultural norms, and religious and spiritual values need to be considered for programs and interventions to be effective.

The report found that discrimination, stigma and fear based on cultural understandings of mental illness often play a large role in preventing sufferers from receiving the treatment they need.

Recommendations for the future

The report identified eight recommendations for the Commonwealth:

  1. Promote the inclusion of mental health strategies into national health programmes and plans.
  2. Foster policies to reduce the risk of mental disorders, discourage discrimination and promote healthy lifestyles.
  3. Work with countries to support the inclusion of mental health in development agendas.
  4. Convene regional consultative meetings to identify successes and challenges with interventions.
  5. Partner with relevant organisations to strengthen national mental health policies and reforms.
  6. Elevate the importance of mental health through a communication and media strategy.
  7. Assist member countries to build capacity in establish mental health surveillance.
  8. Promote research for the prevention, assessment and treatment of mental disorders.

The recommendations were received very positively by all Health Ministers. Read the Commonwealth Health Ministers statement to find out more.