On the 21st of January 2022, World Psychiatric Association’s (WPA) Action Plan Working Group (WG) on Public Mental Health (PMH) published a Health Policy paper in Lancet Psychiatry entitled “Public mental health: required actions to address implementation failure in the context of COVID-19”.
The extensive paper not only discusses the importance of PMH interventions but it also highlights the implementation gap that has only been widened thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it also reports on how the pandemic has increased mental health awareness and underlined the need for a PMH approach.
The paper states that mental disorders currently account for at least 18% of global disease burden, and the associated annual global costs are projected to be US$6 trillion by 2030. It also discusses how evidence-based, cost-effective PMH interventions exist to prevent mental disorders from arising, how they prevent the associated impacts of mental disorders (including through treatment), and how they can promote mental wellbeing and resilience.
However, only a small proportion of people with mental disorders receive minimally adequate treatment which is far less in low- and middle-income countries. Compared with treatment, there is even less coverage of interventions to prevent the associated impacts of mental disorders, prevent mental disorders from arising, or promote mental wellbeing and resilience. This implementation failure breaches the right to health, has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and results in preventable suffering, broad impacts and associated economic costs.
In this Health Policy paper, the authors outline specific actions to improve the coverage of PMH interventions, including PMH needs assessments, collaborative advocacy and leadership, PMH practice to inform policy and implementation, training and improvement of population literacy, settings-based and integrated approaches, use of digital technology, maximising existing resources, focus on high-return interventions, human rights approaches, legislation, and implementation research. Increased interest in PMH in populations and governments since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic supports these actions. Improved implementation of PMH interventions can result in broad health, social, and economic impacts, even in the short-term, which support the achievement of a range of policy objectives, sustainable economic development, and recovery.
The full paper can be read here.
We would like to thanks the WG members who contributed to this paper and for their ongoing work in the PMH field.
Authors: Dr Jonathan Campion, Professor Afzal Javed, Professor Crick Lund, Professor Norman Sartorius, Professor Shekhar Saxena, Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Professor John Allan and Professor Pichet Udonratn.