He made the statement in his message on World Mental Health Day, October 10.
In a press release Ramsammy said this year’s observances follow closely on the heels of the just-concluded Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) High Level Meeting at the United Nations on September 19 which “merely mentioned the mental, neurological and substance use disorders as important public health issues, but did not include mental health” on its list of actions.
This omission prompted him, at a side meeting during the high level meeting hosted by an alliance coordinated by the World Mental Health Federation, to call for a new advocacy movement which he named the NCD+ Movement for Global Emergency Action to Combat Neuro-psychiatric Disorders. World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10.
Ramsammy said he believes that it is “truly an insane condition” that today there is an uphill battle for recognition of mental health as vital to the elimination of poverty and for the attainment of physical, social and mental health for every global citizen.
He also said he is appalled that in the face of mounting evidence, there is no recognition that millions around the world are being made poor, miserable and many persons are likely to die prematurely due to neuro-psychiatric and substance abuse disorders, as major reasons for poor health, disability and under-development.
According to Ramsammy, in 2001 he objected strongly to the exclusion of the NCDs from the Millennium Development Goals and had started to advocate for this to be corrected. He said this advocacy took a decade to bear results and those who had joined him in calling for this anomaly to be remedied had also seen mental health and neuro-psychiatric and substance abuse disorders as significant components in this battle.
Mental health is an indispensable pre-requisite for health and for wealth. “We will lose the battle against poverty; we will fail to reduce poverty and to eliminate poverty as a human condition as long as we continue to neglect mental health…as long as we continue to treat [these conditions] as orphan health issues,” he said. According to the minister, neglecting to promote mental health, to prevent mental illnesses and to treat and care for persons living with mental illnesses represents a major social and economic injustice and constitutes a grave human rights emergency. “Indeed, our vaunted pillar for freedom and the right to pursue our inalienable rights cannot be attained because our world has not been able to provide even basic mental health services for the…majority of our populations,” he added.
Ramsammy said public health and especially mental health must be seen as being addressed as they are major social ills. He noted that because of sloth in addressing this problem some have questioned the legitimacy of the fight against domestic and sexual violence, putting the responsibility on social services and the security sectors and charged that these issues be pursued and treated as emergencies.
On October 10, Ramsammy remembered the almost one million persons who die by suicide every year, the millions who are depressed and others suffering various forms of psychosis, the large numbers of elderly persons affected by dementia and the growing number of youth who are addicted to narcotics and other substances. He also noted the millions of women who suffer post-partum depression, the millions of children who suffer post disaster stresses and millions worldwide who are homeless because of mental illnesses and the “600M children in developing countries who are living in the most disfiguring, grinding poverty imaginable – their lives in a stranglehold, their potential waste, their hopes crushed by a world that condemns half its children to failure even before their life’s journey has begun.”
The minister acknowledges that there is woefully inadequate investment for mental health in National Health Budgets; the investment in developing medicines and commodities lags far behind those for other areas.
He noted too there is an almost total lack of human resources for mental health in most developing countries and this compounds the problem. These irregularities must be corrected in order to treat mental health and address poverty in a meaningful way.