A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) points to a global failure to provide people with the mental health services they need during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Published on Friday, the triennial WHO Mental Health Atlas shows data from 171 countries, and highlights that despite the increased attention given to mental health in recent years, this has not yet resulted in the provision of satisfactory services.
According to the Atlas, in 2020 just 51 percent of WHO’s 194 member states reported that their mental health policy or plan was in line with international and regional human rights instruments, way short of the 80 percent target. Meanwhile, only 52 percent of countries met targets relating to mental health promotion and prevention programs, also well below the 80 percent target.
Policies aside, the percentage of government health budgets spent on mental health has scarcely changed during recent years, still hovering around two percent. Just 39 percent of countries indicated that the necessary human resources had been allocated, and 34 percent that the required financial resources had been provided.
“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,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Despite WHO’s recommendation to decentralize mental health care to communities, the report shows that only 25 percent of responding countries met all the criteria for the integration of mental health into primary care, while the supply of medicines for mental health conditions and psychosocial care in primary health-care services remains limited.
Globally, WHO estimates that people receiving care for specific mental health conditions remained less than 50 percent, with a global median of 40 percent of people with depression and just 29 percent of people with psychosis receiving care.
“The new data from the Mental Health Atlas shows us that we still have a very long way to go in making sure that everyone, everywhere, has access to quality mental health care,” said Devora Kestel, director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use at WHO.