On the 19th of May 2019, a global mental health campaign entitled Speak Your Mind was launched at the World Health Assembly. The campaign is an initiative of United for Global Mental Health, a UK-based NGO, in collaboration with civil society organisations from numerous countries from across the world, and is intended to catalyse positive and concrete changes in the lives of mental health care users within countries of various income levels.
United for Global Mental Health (UGMH) was founded to create a united global effort to bring about greater action on global mental health through a strong demand for action on mental health, more financing, and better global frameworks to deliver it. The campaign will target and hold governments accountable and responsible for providing access and funding for mental health. It is a nationally driven, globally united campaign involving civil society from 15 countries- with many of these bodies including individuals with mental health conditions The campaign gives people with lived experience the megaphone and serves to bring their voices to the fore.
The campaign has a South African Country Team, led by the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) in partnership with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) and the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI). This campaign will seek to hold governments around the world accountable for their actions and inactions towards mental health care users and is intended to accelerate the rights of people with mental disabilities coming to fruition. The South African Country Team will work to domesticate this objective for the local context in South Africa.
The primary objectives of the campaign are to do no harm, to enable others to speak their minds and to get the messages surrounding mental health conditions out there. The secondary objectives of the campaign are to promote increased funding, to promote the need to create inclusive mental health systems and the need for government-led change in awareness on mental health.
The vision of the campaign is “mental health for all.” It’s ask to the public is to “end the silence, fight for action and speak your mind.” The ask to government is to invest, empower and educate to lead us into a future where mental health is valued now for the future we need for people with mental health conditions. The challenge with which we are faced is the chronic neglect of mental health, and the campaign aims to combat this.
The reality is that mental health conditions are on the rise in every country in the world. Some key statistics to note are the fact that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, that suicide is the leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds and that mental health conditions could cost the global economy US$ 16 trillion from 2010-2030 (United for Global Mental Health 2018). The problem with the current response is that governments have failed to act, limiting our potential today and depriving us of opportunities tomorrow. This is reflected in areas such as schools and the workplace.
The campaign has a set of 10 key objectives:
- All governments must have a national policy/plan and law for mental health. This must be in line with international law and policy, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities. Governments must implement these properly and efficiently.
- Governments and relevant stakeholders must uphold all people’s rights (including persons of all ages) to access the right care at the right time, as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- All governments should commit to increase the amount they spend on mental health in order to place spending on mental health on par with spending on other health areas.
- Global aid for mental health should increase to at least US$1 billion p.a by 2023.
- Governments and relevant stakeholders should work together to deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the promotion of mental health and wellbeing. This must be comprehensively monitored globally, nationally and locally and must look at aspects such as reducing the rate of suicide, increasing the coverage and treatment rates for alcohol and other substance use disorders, and achieving universal health coverage by 2030.
- Mental health services should be community-based and integrated across primary health care, specialised care, and social care housing. Mental health has recently been recognised as a non-communicable disease and must thus be included in efforts to reduce chances of death due to both communicable and non-communicable diseases, bearing in mind that people with severe mental health conditions have a considerably reduced lifespan due largely to poor physical care.
- Governments and relevant stakeholders must ensure persons with mental health conditions are at the centre of the steps taken to address mental health issues and must be involved in decision-making processes that are focussed on person-centred and recovery approaches. These services must reflect the wishes of those who make use of mental health care services and must be culturally appropriate.
- All stakeholders – including governments, the private sector, civil society organisations, and persons with mental health conditions and their carers - should work together to reduce stigma and discrimination and increase knowledge and understanding of mental health. This is critical to inform better policy making, prevention and service delivery, and research.
- Governments and other stakeholders need to rapidly scale up high-quality services to those affected by conflict and humanitarian crises, invest in mental health care, and must ensure that sustainable mental health services are available after emergencies.
- Governments and other funders of mental health research should increase their investments in research and innovation, making use of innovative approaches from a wide range of disciplines such as genomics, neuroscience, health services research, clinical sciences, behavioural sciences and social sciences, both for discovery and implementation research. Stakeholders should explore the use of innovative technology for delivery of mental health interventions, especially to be accessible by those most vulnerable, at-risk and “left behind.”
The need for a nation to be in a good state of mental health affects us all, and it is vital that duty-bearers take action to ensure that mental well-being is prioritised. Mental health in South Africa is in a crisis situation, as evidenced by the Life Esidimeni tragedy and the human rights violations against people with mental health conditions that crop up continuously.This has gone unnoticed for too long. This campaign will work towards ensuring that law and policy reflect the needs of persons with mental health conditions and that government takes proactive steps to ensure that the struggles of people with mental health conditions are alleviated.
To follow the international campaign which will include community activations, media campaigns, social media and advocacy, please follow @GoSpeakYourMind or visit www.gospeakyourmind.org and follow #SpeakYourMind and #TimeToAct.