52% of Commonwealth countries lack mental health policy

Amy Schofield 06 September 2017

Mental health experts have called on health ministers across the Commonwealth to prioritise mental health as research shows that only 48% of Commonwealth countries have a mental health policy.

The research of laws and policies in 52 countries of the Commonwealth, funded by the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), also reveals that low income countries are more likely to have mental health policies than high income ones, although numbers are small.

For those countries with a mental health policy, the research showed that:

  • 16% refer to equity of resources between physical and mental illness.
  • 56% of the policies do not explicitly promote deinstitutionalisation.
  • Almost half (44%) of policies do not explicitly promote the integration of mental health services into general health services
  • Half address mental health promotion and emphasise the need for research and evaluation in their mental health policies.

The findings have led the WPA to urge national health ministers throughout the Commonwealth to either introduce new mental health policy or review current policies to ensure that those with mental health problems receive help, care and treatment on an equal basis with other citizens.

According to the World Health Organisation, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, meaning that up to 575 million people across the Commonwealth may be affected.

Dinesh Bhugra, President of the World Psychiatric Association said: "We call on national policy and law-makers in the 11 countries identified by our research to play their part by putting in place mental health policy to ensure that individuals affected by mental health problems receive the care and treatment they so urgently need and to ensure that mental health sector gets adequate attention.

"We call for mental health and mental health discrimination across the Commonwealth countries to be discussed as a priority during the Commonwealth Summit in London in April 2018. It is unacceptable in this day and age that not more is being done to protect the rights of people with mental disorders, across the Commonwealth."

Detailed data from the WPA's Commonwealth mental health policy research will be published in November 2017.

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