Declaration on mental health in Africa: moving to implementation

24 June 2014

Following the February STIAS-Wallenberg  Roundtable on Mental Health Challenges in sub-Saharan Africa (see STIAS-Wallenberg Roundtable 2014 ) a formal Declaration on mental health in Africa: moving to implementation has just been published in the journal Global Health Action.

Quoting form the declaration:

“On February 24th and 25th, 2014 a group of people with a common interest in mental health met at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) in South Africa at a roundtable meeting to address the topic: Mental Health Challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa: Moving to Implementation.

Participants included representatives of groups of interest such as persons with psychosocial disabilities, NGOs, policymakers, academics, research funders, service providers and others from East, West, South and North Africa, as well as colleagues from Sweden, Canada, the US, Germany and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Together with others who participated in planning and at a previous workshop at STIAS, we recognized that in spite of mental, neurological and substance use disorders constituting a very high burden of disease globally, and that depression is the leading cause of disability throughout the world, these disorders have not been given sufficient attention. In Africa, where mental disorders also account for a huge proportion of burden of disease, in general less than 1% of the already minimal national health budgets are spent on these disorders. In communities in which persons with psychosocial disabilities live, and even in the health care system, the affected persons, their families and caregivers are frequently stigmatized and experience social exclusion and discrimination; and it is often assumed that little can be done to address their circumstances. However, a growing body of scientific evidence shows that much can be done for treatment, at moderate additional costs, and with significant economic benefits to countries, while at the same time reducing suffering and improving, and often saving, the lives of those who are affected.

At a global level, the 194 member states of WHO (including those from Africa) have adopted the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan (MHAP) with the objectives of advancing the mental health agenda in the world. This plan is supported by technical tools like the mhGAP Intervention Guide for non-specialist health settings, to assist in scaling up services. In Africa, these provide important opportunities for country-led intervention.

We believe that action is urgently needed not just by governments and other groups as set out below, but also by international donors who contribute to health budgets and influence health policy, the mental health professional community, medical and public health schools, research institutions, and research funding bodies.”

The full declaration and an invitation to sign a related petition can be found at Declaration on mental health in Africa: moving to implementation.

Follow-up work at STIAS will take place within the framework of its long-term theme project dealing with Health in transition.

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