Mental health is a worthwhile goal for United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda

 

no-health-without-mental-health

The post-2015 development goals will, as we know, set out the world’s development agenda for the foreseeable future—in the same way that the Millennium Development Goals provided a framework for global development over the past couple of decades. The United Nations is now preparing to choose its new set of sustainable development goals and the Global Mental Health community must work hard to ensure these goals include mental health.

Professors Vikram Patel and Graham Thornicroft have recently published an article in the British Medical Journal, which outlines why the case for including mental health in the UN’s new development agenda is a compelling one.

Indeed their case is compelling. When we think about it logically, it makes sense: poor mental health is a precursor to reduced resilience to conflict, they argue. In the midst of conflict, hope is a scarce resource and instead of teaching hope, “in the aftermath of war people with mental illness are often accorded the lowest priority”. If we think about the seemingly intractable global conflicts of today, from Syria and Iraq to the massacre in Gaza, the call to address mental health concerns as a priority development agenda, and as a result, rebrand mental illness and teach hope to thousands, is most pertinent.

Including mental health in the new global development agenda will also go a long way towards ending the paralyzing stigma associated with all kinds of mental illness. Not least, the most common mental disorders like depression and anxiety would be well on their way to receiving a more hopeful image globally, recognized as issues which affect us all personally and as communities, cities and countries.

Thornicroft and Patel in fact argue that if mental health is included in the new development agenda and mental health systems are globally improved, that would also “have a decisive role in making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable”. For addressing mental health concerns of an individual is not only beneficial to the person suffering, but when the problems associated with mental illness are given importance by society and a collective effort to address them is taken, it will inevitably create a sense of common belonging, hope, equality and indeed resilience among communities.

This would then also require addressing the income and economic inequalities faced by people who suffer from mental health problems. They have far lower rates of employment, but also, in times of economic recession, a population’s mental health is worse, argue the two professors. If we can thus promote a principle of ‘sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all,” again this too would benefit wider society as a whole.

The narrative which is understood by these arguments is that mental health problems are a global issue that impacts not only those who suffer, but wider society and large populations of human settlements. It is thus, for our collective benefit that we make treatment available to people who are suffering and in turn spread the message of hope globally.

The reasons that we need to push for the inclusion of mental health in the global development agenda are of course many, and only a few have been mentioned here.  But what is important to remember is that the proliferation of mental health problems is the result of collective ignorance of these issues over a long period of time. When we can talk freely about depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, we can find and develop ways to tackle these issues whether it’s through modern medicine, community-building or teaching hope to young people. What we do know is that the conversation can become truly global if we can secure mental health in the Post-2015 development agenda. The BMG editorial rightly highlights that mental health is a worthwhile goal for sustainable development.

A new article written by Bidushi Dhungel

Young and Vulnerable: The biggest tragedy regarding youth mental illness is collective inaction

This year, United Nations International Youth Day (IYD), on August 12, has been designated to celebrate the importance of youth mental health with the slogan ‘Mental Health Matters’. This is an opportunity, particularly for low and middle-income countries, to highlight a vitally important—but utterly neglected—aspect of youth life. The neglect has occurred on many levels by both state and society. In a statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rightly highlighted the global urgency to address the stigma and discrimination of youth with mental health conditions.

For the majority of youth who suffer from mental illness, they are forced to live a life of rejection from friends, society and relatives. They are denied the status of ‘citizen’, social membership and basic human needs, robbing them of a dignified life. Around the world, mental illnesses play a significantly negative role in the development of hundreds of millions of youth and their social and economic inclusion and empowerment. In poor countries like Nepal, the young population with mental illness is in a particularly vulnerable position because of the lack of a public health approach in dealing with mental illness, the absence of basic support for their recovery from the state and the deeply entrenched stigma of their illness.

More at risk

Coinciding with the IYD 2014, the United Nations Division for Social Policy and Development, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs has published an insightful report, ‘Social Inclusion of Youth with Mental Health Conditions,’ targeting global actors involved in the field of youth empowerment. I would recommend that youth activists and development workers in Nepal and abroad read this report seriously.

While the young years of life are usually considered to be the most physically active, healthy and energetic of one’s life, this phase is also one when people are most susceptible to mental health problems. However, in many low and middle-income settings, the latter risk is entirely ignored. I do hope that the exposure the issue is getting this year will be instrumental in changing the outlook of mental health, particularly of youth mental health, across the globe.

Nearly one fifth of the global population is comprised of youth aged 14 to 24 years. Almost 90 percent of these live in low and middle-income countries. In a study carried out by Professor Vikram Patel and his team, it is estimated that approximately 20 percent of youth experience a mental health condition each year around the world. Because the youth years are a phase of emotional transition and a time to nurture and pursue childhood dreams, the pressure to study well, find jobs and opportunities is also high.

Drug use, emotional and learning difficulties and disappointment are common. In countries like Nepal, socio-economic disparities and practices of early marriage and strenuous labour can make the situation worse, leaving young people more at risk of experiencing mental health problems than anyone else. Many studies suggest that over 70 percent of mental disorders start before the age of 16. One in nine children attempt suicide before high school graduation and 40 percent of those are in grade school.This is clear evidence that mental health services must be developed to target young age groups.

Educating and collective action

OPRF School Planting, 2013

The prevention and promotion of mental health issues is the way to deal with the growth in mental health problems amongst the youth. Integrating mental health issues into school education is the most effective approach to prevent and promote mental well-being. With an ambition to institutionalise mental health education at the school level and teach hope from an early age, US-based entrepreneur Kathryn Goetzke and her team have just started a pioneering programme, Schools for Hope. This team strongly believes that we can teach our kids how to find pathways to hope, no matter what they experience and that ultimately, we can prevent suicide in youth and adulthood. If this programme is successful, it will be a revolutionary step forward in promoting and institutionalising emotional health and mental well-being.

The biggest tragedy regarding mental illness is collective inaction, which has perpetuated tremendous fear, uncertainty, helplessness, segregation, and hopelessness in the lives of those who suffer. Rather than the illness itself, a fear of social rejection and segregation leads almost a million people to commit suicide every year, with the majority of them young people. By promoting greater social inclusion and empowerment of youth living with mental illness in society, we can change this reality.

It is also vitally important to spread the message that effective services (both social and clinical) exist to manage all kinds of mental health problems. We need to build capacity and a knowledge base to address them. Now, we have to start demanding equitable investment for the mental well-being of the population by asking that the state make holistic mental health services available and accessible for all.

 A new article written by Jagannath Lamichhane

Lamichhane is global coordinator of the Movement for Global Mental Health

The Path to Happiness is Sound Mental Health

In July 2011 the UN General Assembly passed a historic resolution:  It invited member countries to measure the happiness of their people and to use this to help guide their public policies. Bhutan topped the first report published in 2012 as the ‘happiest’ country, in a shocking revelation. According to the report, “the word ‘happiness’ is not used lightly. Happiness is an aspiration of every human being, and can also be a measure of social progress.” It further goes on to take the example of the US to explain: “America’s founding fathers declared the inalienable right to pursue happiness. Yet are Americans, or citizens of other countries, happy? If they are not, what if anything can be done about it?”

Undoubtedly, this “happiness” discourse is intrinsically linked to the mental health of individuals, communities and countries. One has to wonder: Why are Mexico and Costa Rica “happier” than the US, even in the event of massive income, development and freedom deficits in the former countries? This then leads us to the idea that perhaps — just perhaps — happiness cannot be measured by wealth or external development, but rather by other factors like peace of mind, social cohesion, satisfaction, inclusion in the community and personal integrity: all factors associated with good mental health. Unsurprisingly, the 2013 World Happiness Report reveals in chapter three that mental illness is, in fact, the “single most important cause of unhappiness, but it is largely ignored by policy makers”.

The 2013 report shows that mental health is the “single most important determinant of individual happiness” (in every case where this has been studied). About 10 percent of the world’s population suffers from clinical depression or crippling anxiety disorders going by UN data.  And accordingly, that makes depression and anxiety the biggest causes of disability and absenteeism, with huge costs in terms of misery and economic waste. Most cases of depression and anxiety are easily treatable—medically and socially.

Cost-effective treatments exist as I have discussed in previous blogs, but even in advancedcountries, only a third of those who need it are in treatment according to the report. The incredibly frustrating part is that the available treatments ranging from psychotherapy (CBT, Mindfulness) to medication produce recovery rates of 50% or more, which means that effectively, fifty percent of the world’s ‘unhappy’ people could be happier and be living far more fulfilling lives!

That means that there are indeed objective benefits of subjective well-being. The Happiness Report 2013 shows a broad range of evidence showing that people who are emotionally happier, who have more satisfying lives, and who live in happier communities, are more likely both now and later to be healthy, productive, and socially connected. These benefits in turn flow more broadly to their families, workplaces, and communities, to the advantage of all.

But it seems not enough that human rights require that treatment should be as available for mental illness as it is for physical illness. The policy priority in much of the world for mental health, especially in developing countries, is incredibly low. Even politicians are marked by the terror of the stigma associated with mental illness such that mental illness is rarely expressed or internalized as a leading cause for the misery of any state’s population.

What I found particularly useful in the 2013 World Happiness Report are the solutions suggested to overcome these barriers to sound mental health and thus a happier global population. It suggests two main strategies: to provide better healthcare and social support for adults who are mentally ill. But a second is to intervene earlier — since half of adults who are mentally ill experienced the onset of their mental health problems by the age of 15, say the writers of the report. This, I suppose, would mean starting to talk about mental health as a real and substantial issue from a young age within schools and local communities. The research done on the mental health variable with regards to happiness shows the contribution of a child’s development to his/her resulting life satisfaction as a child. Basically, the emotional development of children is crucial to determining their mental health later in life. According to the research, “if you are interested in well-being, intellectual development needs to be balanced by much more interest in emotional and social development”.

Having read this report, I am even more enthused about the work that iFred is doing through the Schools for Hope program! While the notion of providing better mental health services at the adult stage will forever be crucial to the well-being of society, measures to incorporate the ideas of hope into school curriculums could well go a long way in preventing common mental disorders like depression and anxiety in the first place by nipping the bud at the root. And that is exactly what the World Happiness Report 2013 has clarified – that preventative care is possible, through education and services for young people!

A new article written by:

Jagannath Lamichhane

(with support from Bidushi Dhungel)

#happiness #teachhope #mentalhealth #shinelight

Press Release: iFred Launches Depression News Blog to Shine Light, Advocate Hope and End the Stigma of Depression

For Immediate Release:

February 5, 2014

iFred to launch global blog to shine  light, advocate hope, and end stigma of depression

Chicago IL:  The International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) today launches its new blog series “Seeds for Hope” at (www.ifred.org). The aim is to shine light on the leading cause of disability around the world and give hope to the 350 million depression survivors worldwide with the disease. Jagannath Lamichhane, pioneer in mental health media from Nepal, is authoring the biweekly blog in the wake of the United Nations-adopted World Health Organization’s ‘Global Mental Health Action Plan’.

Jagannath Lamichhane was chosen to author this important endeavor as he is a human rights activist and has pioneered mental health advocacy in Nepal and globally.  When Jagannath was asked about authoring, he stated, “I am thrilled to be a part of iFred’s international effort to combat the stigma against depression,” adding that he would, through the blog, try to “address the range and depth of concerns facing those who suffer from depression and other health and human rights issues surrounding the disease and disability.  I also plan to highlight the incredible work countries and individuals around the world are doing globally in helping those with depression.”

Depression and other mental health problems have recently been recognized as a serious global health burden.  According to a new report entitled Transforming Lives, Enhancing Communities – Innovations in Global Mental Health – edited by Professor Dr. Vikram Patel and Dr Shekhar Saxena, two renowned authorities in the field of global mental health – at least 10 percent of the world’s population is affected by one of a wide range of mental disorders. The report also reveals that depression will be the leading cause of disability worldwide by 2030.

Currently, The WHO estimates that more than 350 million people from around the world already suffer from depression and that depression is behind a large portion of the one million yearly deaths caused by suicide globally. In fact, the burden of mental illness (among which depression is the leading cause) is more than 1.5 times that of all cancers.  These past two years the World Health Organization hosted a groundbreaking effort, of which IFred participated, to develop and implement A Global Mental Health Action Plan adopted by the United Nations for which member states around the world agreed to make mental health a priority.

Kathryn Goetzke’, iFred Founder, thinks this blog is critical to efforts for hope as she states “Depression is treatable, yet according to the World Health Organization less than 50% of those needing treatment receive treatment primarily due to stigma.  This blog is going to help us communicate the issues around depression, educate mental health consumers around the world on treatment, and continue to shine a positive light of hope to help end stigma.  I first met Jagannath in Athens, Greece at an event I spoke for on rebranding depression on the Global Mental Health Movement as we worked with the BBC to raise public awareness of our work.  We met then again at the United Nations while advocating Human Rights for those with depression, so I know we are in great hands and so very fortunate to have him on board”.

iFred hopes this endeavor will yield impactful results in awareness raising and engaging communities in finding solutions to tackle the greatest challenge of our time – depression.

About iFred:

The mission of International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) is to shine a positive light on depression and eliminate the stigma associated with the disease through prevention, research and education. Its goal is to ensure 100% of the 350 million people affected by depression seek and receive treatment.  iFred is creating a shift in society’s negative perception of depression through positive imagery and branding—establishing the sunflower and color yellow as the international symbols of hope for depression. iFred also engages with individuals and organizations to execute high-impact and effective campaigns that educate the public about support and treatment for depression.

 

About Jagannath Lamichhanejagannath 3 (190x143)

Jagannath Lamichhane: Jagannath is a psychosocial disability and human rights activist from Nepal. He is the founding chairman of the Nepal Mental Health Foundation, the only advocacy and policy focused mental health service user-run organization. He has contributed greatly to the mental health discourse, including in The Guardian and the Lancet medical journal, among others. His main areas of interest are human rights violations, legal inequality, dehumanization, and social exclusion of people with psychosocial disabilities and mental health problems. Currently, he is doing MSC in Global Mental Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Kings College London.  In his free time, he likes to meditate, watch films and hopes to see more of this beautiful world.

The Past, Present, and Future for Depression; A Perspective of Hope from Geneva

 

As I sit here at a crowded Starbucks in sunny Geneva Switzerland, preparing for the meeting tomorrow at the headquarters of the World Health Organization, I marvel at how far we have come in the field of mental health since my father’s suicide over 20 years ago.  In those days, we looked upon suicide as a poor choice a person made and simply did not talk about it.  Today, while we still have a long way to go, we are starting to understand that it is more than a choice; it is a complicated combination of life circumstances, chemical processes of the brain, genetics, and childhood trauma.

Last year I had the privilege of attending the discussion of the ground breaking resolution for the UN to make global mental health a priority throughout the world with a proposed Global Mental Health Action Plan.  On May 27th, 2013 the World Health Assembly adopted the “Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020“, putting the world on notice that mental health must be a priority.   I have the honor of attending the WHO follow-up conference tomorrow October 7th, during Global Mental Health week, to hear across the globe how member states and affiliated organizations are going to put the plan into action.

In 2004 when I began my work to end the stigma of depression through rebranding, less than 25% were receiving treatment leaving a full 75% of the world population untreated.  Last year, the World Health Organization statistics reported that the number untreated is now 50%, so while progress might not be evident it is improving.  These statistics bring me joy and gratitude that the tireless work of the people in the field of mental health, creating awareness and bringing services to the 350 million with depression, is not happening in vain.

That being said, there is much left to do.  Depression is now the leading cause of disability worldwide, yet it is treatable.  It is significantly underfunded and still highly stigmatized and there is much more to do to bring treatment numbers to 100%.

I encourage you to join us October 10th, Global Mental Health Day, to learn more about depression.  Join us in watching the free, live Global Web Screening of Hidden Pictures, the first feature documentary on global mental health.  Read and share information on mental health from organizations like Psyhcentral and Webmd with perspectives from both the medical profession and patients.  Or take the pledge to plant a virtual sunflower, showing your solidarity in our movement to bring dignity and respect to those living with depression.

Follow us on Twitter and join our Facebook community for posts throughout Global Mental Health week.  There is Hope.  Depression is treatable.  Share the word and help save a life today.

 

 

Dogs Teaching Adults How to Teach Kids to Read

Some fantastic research has shown that the benefits of dogs can go beyond being good friends – they can help kids learn how to read.  This article goes into detail about how, but a University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine did research on kids reading to dogs vs. kids not reading to dogs, and overall effect on reading.   I think it would behoove us adults to learn from the techniques used by the dogs, so that we can be as effective (or better) than our four-legged friends.

The reasearch showed that kids reading to dogs had both improvements in both fluency and speed of reading.  How did this happen with kids?  The children reported:

  • The dogs made them feel more relaxed
  • The dog didn’t care or judge them if they made mistakes
  • It was more ‘fun’

Kids reported a boost in self-confidence, worth, and esteem.  So while this is fantastic research about dogs and the benefit of animals on health and wellbeing, I think it also should serve as a lesson to other kids or adults teaching reading or other life skills; be patient and non-judgemental.  Perhaps the dogs in this study are not just teaching kids how to read – they are teaching people how to treat kids learning to grow up in this world.  In any event, enjoy!

Fantastic Q&A on Exercise and Depression

Our wonderful advisory board member, Kirsten Straughan, was kind enough to let iFred present to the students in UIC’s Human Nutrition program, preparing students to become registered dieticians.  Students interested in volunteering and learning more about depression took up the topics of exercise, nutrition, and the brain, and we are so thankful that Ann Haibeck researched and compiled these common questions and answers about depression and exercise.  THANK YOU and keep up the great work! 

General clinical depression 

Why should I consider exercise as a way to alleviate depressive symptoms? How does exercise help? 

Exercise provides a distraction or “time out” from the stresses of daily living. Most people also feel a sense of accomplishment, self-esteem, and increased self-efficacy as a result of exercise. 

[Read more...]

Fascinating Research on Getting the Most out of Art Therapy

There is such a great deal of  information on art therapy, it is becoming a new trend in treatment for patients with mental health issues.  I think it is FANTASTIC, as we are learning how to use alternative methods for improving our state of mind.  One thing that seems, to me, to be missing in all of the literature, is the benefit of creating something positive vs. negative vs. neutral and the overall effect on mood.

I write about this because our work is on rebranding depression, and often times in the art world brilliant artists create rather ‘dark’ images.  While I understand the need to express and am thankful this type of release is positive, what research is starting to show is that creating something positive is even more beneficial to mood and health than just expressing negative or neutral emotions. [Read more...]

The Shocking Truth of America’s Influence on Liberia and a Proposal to Heal

Shocking is an understatement.  Here are the things people in the world agree on in regards to Liberia:
  • It was colonized in 1821-1822 by freed American Slaves.
  • These slaves formed an elite group in society, and in 1847 formed an elite group named the Republic of Liberia.
  • In 1989 the first Civil War in Liberia broke out, and in 1999 the second Civil War in Liberia broke out.  These have been named the bloodiest, most gruesome wars in history.
  • In 2003, The Economist named Liberia “The World’s Worst Place to Live”.

You may say, so what?  But let us take a moment to remember what we have put out of our memory due to the horrific nature of our ancestor’s behavior.  How we, Americans, treated those slaves according to the editors of the CD oral history project called Remembering Slavery: African-Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation:  

“Some slave women were used for breeding more slaves. Plantation owners would rape female slaves in order to produce more slaves. Some slaves were even forced to have sex with others to increase population and increase the amount of slave product on the market.”     

[Read more...]