The World Bank Group (WBG)/World Health Organization (WHO) Meetings April 13-14, 2016, Washington DC, USA


 Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority

Plenary Panel Discussion: Mental Health in the Global Development Agenda: Challenges and Options

Suggestions on scale-up of mental health services drew from the example of the HIV campaign, particularly the importance of mental health activists who will knock on the doors of governments persistently, consistently, armed with evidence-based data. For many years, mental health has been like a stepchild, i.e., it is not like HIV, TB, or malaria. It lacks social mobilization and has been very much in the shadows. It has a long way to go, but again, drawing from the example of HIV, who would have thought 20 years ago that HIV treatment and care would be where it is now?

Civil society organizations (CSOs) with innovative, bottoms-up, service delivery programs are more likely to be successful.  WHO, investing on the mhGAP, urged international cooperation from all countries, not just high-income countries (HICs). According to ShekharSaxena, “when it comes to mental health, all countries are developing countries.”Vikram Patel predicts that technology will play a big role in the scale up and MuraliDoraiswamy believes that technology can help refine diagnosis, provide video platforms on life skills, and can be done with such organizations as Google, Microsoft, and Adobe.

Dr. Kay Jamison is optimistic about scale up given that the science is going well and so many families are affected by mental illness all over the world. There is still a need to agree on aspects of treatment, mood monitoring, and medication (e.g., non-psychiatrists prescribe antidepressants more than psychiatrists!). Nevertheless, the science is encouraging.

In summary, scaling up access to mental health following HIV-similar funding mechanisms means:

·         CSOs (and certainly people who suffer from mental illness) must push for access through the rights-based approach through evidence-based research. Currently, successes in mental health care are private while failures are public. It is time for successes and lessons learned from failures to be made public.

·         More effort should be placed on prevention at the community level. Mental health must be integrated with poverty alleviation programs.

·         Civil society organizations, individuals, governments, international organizations—not only the World Bank or WHO—have the responsibility to advocate for access to mental health care.

Why is access to mental health so important? What role does technology play in scaling up access? What will be the way forward for mental health now that the World Bank’s spotlight is focused on mental health?

I will share more insights in my future blogs.

Dr. Cynthia J. Ticao: Performance Director, Research & Advocacy