Member countries of the World Health Organisation’s Southeast Asia region on Tuesday adopted the Paro Declaration, committing to provide universal access to mental healthcare and services.
Increasing investment in mental health reduces treatment costs and increases productivity, employment and quality of life, WHO regional director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said in a statement.
The Paro Declaration was adopted at the ministerial roundtable on addressing mental health through primary care and community engagement, on Day 2 of the ongoing 75th session of the WHO Southeast Asia meeting in Bhutan.
“The declaration urges member countries to develop and implement multisectoral policies to address mental health risks and reduce treatment gaps exacerbated by COVID-19 to ensure that services reach all those in need, close to where they live, without financial hardship,” the regional director said.
As part of the declaration, the member countries agreed to develop country-specific targets to achieve universal primary care-oriented mental health services and mainstream mental health in policy planning, implementation, and evaluation.
The Paro Declaration also calls for increased funding for community-based mental health networks and a continuous supply of medicines and rehabilitation, the statement said.
In Southeast Asia, one in seven people on average live with a mental health condition, it said, adding personal and economic distress caused by the pandemic has widened the gaps in addressing mental health challenges.
The declaration calls for ensuring an effective and comprehensive response to mental health needs by establishing evidence-based and rights-oriented community networks and systematically planning for the de-institutionalisation of care for people with severe mental disorders.
Member countries committed to prioritising fiscal space for health and universal health coverage, secure adequate investment for mental health services at the primary and secondary level, and mobilising required additional resources in partnership with local and international stakeholders.
Several member countries in the region have already taken action to strengthen policies, plans, laws and services to improve mental health of its citizens.
Replicating and scaling up successful models and innovative interventions, harnessing digital technologies and telemedicine to improve access to services and capacity-building of healthcare workers, and using evidence and data for programme improvement will help make the region withstand future mental health impacts exacerbated by humanitarian emergencies, climate change and economic downturns, the statement said.