Oct 19, Colombo: Sri Lanka, appreciating the World Health Organization (WHO) for the initiatives taken in recent times, to effectively address mental health challenges globally, called on redoubling the collective efforts to create awareness among people at all levels.
Addressing the WHO Mental Health Forum held in Geneva on 14 October 2019, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ambassador A.L.A. Azeez said the mainstream media, social media and sports events can be used to raise awareness among all people and communities about mental health issues.
"It is timely that we redoubled our collective efforts to create awareness in places and communities which are beyond the reach of mainstream media and information or advocacy campaigns. If the objective of the UN Development Agenda - 2030, that is "leave no one behind", is to have any practical meaning, the message has to resonate with the people at all levels," Ambassador Azeez said.
Sri Lanka at the forum updated the global healthcare community, which comprised policy experts and representatives of Member States and international organizations, on progress achieved in advancing mental health, providing healthcare support and improving the working environment that could foster good health and wellbeing among the Sri Lankan population.
The intervention made by Ambassador Azeez dealt with three main points namely, the need for mental healthcare and delivery of assistance to be holistic; the importance of an inclusive approach that ensured availability of mental healthcare coverage throughout the entire cycle of vulnerability; and the sustainment of a supportive environment that assured security, empathy and care for at-risk individuals.
The Sri Lankan envoy called upon mental health policy makers and experts to attune themselves to the urgency of addressing this growing global health concern as the international community actively pursued the UN Development Agenda 2030 and SDG 3 - Good Health and Wellbeing.
A proper assessment of all risk factors is in order if comprehensive mental healthcare is to be effectively ensured, added Ambassador Azeez, emphasizing further that such an assessment would help countries find innovative solutions as well as scale their efforts towards the implementation of comprehensive multi-sectoral mental healthcare prevention strategies.
Sri Lanka also referred to the Presidential Task Force on Suicide Prevention, stressing that a number of multi-faceted and multi-sectoral recommendations of the Task Force continued to be followed up at the national level. Among pro-active prevention measures taken by the government, remained media guidelines reporting; mental health promotion in schools; training programs for healthcare providers on mental health; programs on prevention and rehabilitation for alcohol and substance abuse; and operationalization of helplines.
Sri Lanka further informed the Forum that a national mental healthcare survey is due to begin in the year 2020, adding that it would help identify treatment gap, healthcare seeking pattern and impact of mental health vulnerability. The pivotal role of media in educating the public, creating dialogue and working towards the elimination of stigma around mental health challenges was also highlighted as was the importance of WHO using international sports events as platforms to increase awareness of the importance of addressing mental healthcare challenges and the related stigma surrounding it.
The 2019 edition of the Mental Health Forum convened by WHO focused on a specific theme 'Enhancing country action on Mental Health' as part of its policy dialogue in advancing the WHO Special Initiatives for Mental Health 2019-2020.