You know the World Health Organization best for its role in response to infectious-disease epidemics, or perhaps for the actors who play WHO roles in movies about infectious-disease epidemics. But this week, the global health agency announced its intent to strengthen its focus on illnesses that attack the mind, with a meeting in Washington of medical professionals and government officials — along with aid groups already engaged in this work — from across the globe. It’s a significant step forward in the acknowledgement of mental health as a central piece of physical health.
|Image Courtesy of Huffington Post|
This means, as Inskeep pointed out, that there are some wealthier nations with one thousand timesmore mental-health professionals on a per capita basis as compared to some poorer nations. There are also some countries, Saxena added, with a population of 19 million, and just three — three — psychiatrists to share. Refugees need special attention, too, as WHO data suggest that people who are forced to migrate face a 50 to 100 percent increase in their risk for developing some kind of mental disorder.
There is as of yet no how in place for the WHO; this is the question that this week’s conference is meant to solve, or at least begin to solve. For now, the bottom line is that the mental well-being of a nation’s population is now being shifted to the top tier of the WHO’s priorities, as important to a country’s development as, say, building a better infrastructure, for instance. “When it comes to mental health,” Saxena said, “all countries are developing countries.”