Strengthened well-being initiatives are making their way to the parts of Asia that need it most.
By Zee Johnson
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared that residents in Southeast Asia should have access to quality mental healthcare at the 75th session of the WHO regional committee for Southeast Asia. Member countries came together to adopt the Paro Declaration with the goal of addressing mental health, a factor that has become very serious for the region.
“The Declaration urges member countries to develop and implement multisectoral policies across the life-course to address mental health risks and reduce treatment gaps exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that mental health services reach all those in need, close to where they live, without financial hardship,” Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO Southeast Asia region said in an official release.
The announcement comes fresh off the heels of alarming statistics that showed approximately one in seven people in the Southeast Asia region live with a mental health condition. In countries where data is available, the treatment gap ranges between 70% and 95%. And unfortunately, heightened personal and economic distress caused by COVID-19 has widened the treatment gap and has made it more challenging to address common issues like:
- scarcity of resources;
- low investment;
- lack of data; and
- lack of services in primary care settings
The end goal of the initiative is to strengthen prevention and promotion programmes to help support the overall well-being in the region. The committee plans to address suicide and self-harm, poverty, lack of education, substance use, consumption of harmful digital entertainment, social isolation, bullying, parenting issues, and more.
Dr. Singh believes that the Declaration will be a stepping-stone to a better life for residents.
“There is no health without mental health,” she said. “Increasing investments in mental health, including for preventive and promotive services at the primary care level, reduces treatment costs and increases productivity, employment and quality of life.”