The key to continue the momentum on mental health is to step up advocacy efforts. Politicians and the general public are only partly aware of the fact that effective treatment of most mental disorders is possible. The image of mental illness is contaminated with images of violence, sin and laziness. Most health workers are not conversant with modern methods of treatment of mental illness and often do not possess the necessary skills to deal with it. Among them there are many who believe that the only way of dealing with mental illness is long term hospital care. In the majority of countries, including developed ones, there is no parity of care for mental and physical illnesses. Stigma of mental illness gains strength from these misconceptions and reinforces them.
Advocacy objectives include, among others: the promotion of human rights of the persons with mental disorders and of their families, and monitoring the life conditions of people with mental illness and their families. Parity of care needs to be assured in all health schemes. Successful advocacy efforts require, among others:
- to motivate the decision-makers;
- to empower consumers, families and NGOs by, for example, promoting the establishment and work of the organizations, creating appropriate lobbying bodies;
- to organize and launch with interested parties anti-stigma programmes in all population groups;
- to collaborate with the media by, for example, informing more objectively about problems and solutions, creating a cultural change with regard to issues related to mental disorders;
- to promote, with all parties concerned, programmes leading to reduce the burden of the selected disorders noted above and the risk factors for suicide, particularly of the young, and the provision of support to the survivors; and
- to authoritatively inform decision-makers regarding the mental health impact of economic and social policies.
Through use of partnership relationships with NGOs, WHO is supporting countries in developing the very important advocacy sector, especially the consumer/user and family aspects through the crucial establishment of self help and peer support services. There will also be support for the development of anti-stigma activities and campaigns.
Review of expert opinion on barriers to service development
Expert opinion on barriers and facilitating factors for the implementation of existing mental health knowledge in mental health services