WHO Mental Health Action Plan
Adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2013, the WHO mental health action plan aims to promote mental well-being, prevent mental disorders, provide care, enhance recovery and promote human rights.
Treatment for mental health disorders involves a collaborative plan with a mental health clinician and the person diagnosed (and often their family) to address the needs of that individual. This could include psychotherapy (talk therapy), medication or other treatments.
What is the WHO Mental Health Action Plan?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has a new mental health action plan to improve services worldwide. Adopted in May 2013 by the World Health Assembly, it aims to reduce the mortality, morbidity and disability of persons with mental disorders.
WHO’s psychologist Michelle Funk, PhD, says the plan reflects input from member states and other stakeholders. She explains that the plan promotes a recovery model rather than the medical model that predominates in most countries, and focuses on the importance of treating patients and not just diseases.
The plan aims to diminish the mental health treatment gap, which is caused by stigma and other barriers. It also aims to build mental health system treatment and research capacity and implement prevention programs.
The WHO’s vision is that everyone thrives in communities where they are connected to resilient mental health and well-being. This means that people feel safe and experience a sense of control over their lives.
This is not determined by where they live, what they look like, who they love or how they worship. It is determined by their ability to access effective, affordable and equitable mental health services, care and counseling.
Despite advances in the science of mental illness, there are still a significant number of people who do not receive the mental health care they need. This is largely due to stigma, help-seeking behaviors and other factors.
Reducing these barriers requires more research on how to change attitudes and increase utilization of mental health services. It also requires more efforts to increase awareness of the importance of early intervention, treatment options and the possibility of recovery. This research must be conducted within culturally relevant contexts.
The global burden of mental disorders is massive, and in many countries it is estimated that more than 70% of the population are affected. However, there are few resources to treat these conditions, and the treatment gap is significant.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) new Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan aims to address this situation. It sets clear objectives for Member States, the WHO Secretariat and international, regional and national partners to promote mental health and well-being, prevent mental disorders for those at risk, and ensure universal coverage of mental health services.
The WHO has a strong track record of promoting a recovery-oriented approach to mental health, and that model is at the heart of the new action plan. Its new targets include a 20% increase in service coverage for severe mental disorders and a 10% reduction in suicide rates by 2020.
A billion people worldwide are affected by mental health conditions. Despite that, a significant number of these people don’t receive treatment. And a significant number of them die by suicide.
For this reason, the WHO Mental Health Action Plan is a major step forward. It lays out specific targets to be achieved by 2030, as well as policy options for implementation.
One key way in which the mental health community can help the plan succeed is by supporting the campaign to persuade governments to implement it. For example, by writing to their ministries of health and other relevant government departments and asking them what they intend to do to implement the targets agreed.
Another way is to work closely with NGOs and other civil society to promote the importance of the SDGs for global mental health, and how they can make an impact through their campaigns. This can be done by raising clear policy demands for specific mental disorders, services or system changes, and establishing continuous and trusting relationships with policy makers to bring mental health into the global policy agenda.