International health experts call for a special UN session on mental health

Professor Harry Minas, Director of the Centre for International Mental Health at the University of Melbourne has joined experts from the US and the UK to call for a United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the topic.

Professor Minas said mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders were a core development issue requiring commitments to improve access to care, promote human rights and strengthen the evidence on effective prevention and treatment.

"The time has come for recognition at the highest levels of global development, namely the UN General Assembly, of the urgent need for a global strategy to address the global burden of MNS disorders," he said.

Mental, neurological, and substance use disorders (MNS disorders - a relatively new acronym
coined by the World Health Organization to refer to the complete range of disorders of the brain
and the mind) are leading contributors to the global burden of disease and profoundly impact the
social and economic well-being of individuals and communities.

Yet the majority of people affected by MNS disorders globally do not have access to evidence-based interventions and many experience discrimination and abuses of their human rights.

The authors outline three broad areas of action needing urgent investment: to enhance access to evidence-based packages of care for the treatment of MNS disorders; to realise the human rights commitment enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure that people with MNS disorders live a life with dignity; and to expand knowledge about MNS disorders.

Professor Minas who is also the Secretariat, Movement for Global Mental Health, said securing the commitment of a majority of governments for a UNGASS would require a concerted effort from the diverse group of stakeholders concerned with MNS disorders.

"The fact that MNS disorders affect people in all countries should offer considerable incentive for investments by both public and private sectors in this initiative," he said.

The authors also encourage support for the development of a ’’People’s Charter for Mental Health’’ that will identify priority needs into practical actionable steps for implementation.

The authors conclude: "Together, this grand coalition of local, national, and global actors will converge their energies towards the implementation of a UNGASS to achieve the ultimate goal of reducing the global burden of MNS disorders."

Professor Minas is available for.

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