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October 7, 2021

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Global Mental Health Summit

‘The silent pandemic of poor mental health has taken too many people before their time’, Health Secretary tells Global Mental Health Summit

The Global Mental Health Summit 2021, held in Paris on 5 and 6 October, saw the French Minister for Solidarity and Health, Olivier Veran, and the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, come together to present the “Mind Our Rights, Now!” summit. 

Communities secretary Sajid Javid

Health Secretary, Sajid Javid

The event was attended by high level policy makers, international organisations, health professionals, experts and civil society actors, and renowned academics, all of whom aim to reinforce international efforts that support mental health on a global scale. One of whom was, UK Health Secretary, Savid Javid, who spoke on the current government initiatives aiming to promote better mental health in Britain.

The Health Secretary began his speech by stating that: “This year’s summit comes at a critical moment. There’s never been a more important time to talk about mental health, after our shared experience of this pandemic. A pandemic which has brought so much heartache and devastation, and has led to millions of people mourning loved ones all across the world.

“And we must also recognise that there’s been another – less visible – impact: the impact on people’s mental health.

“Around one in five adults in Britain experienced some form of depression in the first 3 months of this year. That’s over double the figure before we started our fight against COVID-19.”

Mr Javid then drew listeners attention a recent survey by the World Health Organization (WHO), which highlights just how severely the pandemic has disrupted mental health services, with 93% of countries being affected worldwide. The survey of 130 countries provides the first global data showing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding.

He continued: “Although this was an arduous time for health systems everywhere, there’s a lot that we can learn from one another about how we handled this period of pressure and the new ways of working that we were forced to adopt.

“In England, we set up 24/7 crisis hotlines that have received 3 million calls since the start of the pandemic, and we used mental health apps and virtual consultations to provide extra pathways for care.

“We’ve seen a decade of change crammed into just 2 years. And today provides a perfect opportunity to share experiences from far and wide, and look at what changes we can take forward as we look to move out of this pandemic.”

Mr Javid argued that, our global mission should be for mental health to be treated with the same urgency as physical health, raising the important point that, its effects can be just as life-threatening.

“Suicide accounts for one death around the world every 40 seconds and severe mental illness has been found to reduce life expectancy by 10 to 20 years.

“The silent pandemic of poor mental health has taken too many people before their time, and now is the time to act with the same sense of urgency as we have done for other major killers.”

Statistics show that, in the UK, children from the poorest 20% of households are 4 times as likely to have serious mental health difficulties by the age of 11 compared with those from the wealthiest 20% of households.

Mr Javid assured delegates that the UK government has: “committed an extra 2.3 billion pounds per year to transform mental health services by 2023, expanding them to reach families, communities, workplaces and schools.

“We’ve also strengthened mental health support for colleagues on the frontline, and we’re reforming our Mental Health Act to make sure that everyone is treated with respect that they deserve.”

Another study led by the WHO, has estimated that depression and anxiety costs the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Javid argues that, just like COVID-19, mental health is a common adversary, and we all need to step up and play our part.

“It’s only through working together, learning from one another, and sharing what’s worked and what hasn’t that we can improve mental healthcare all across the world.”

The Health Secretary concluded: “This pandemic has seen so much shared solidarity on physical health, like the vaccine distribution that’s getting jabs in arms all across the world, and now we must do the same for mental health too.”

To access the speech in full, click here.

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