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‘No One Behind’ policy must resonate at all levels, Sri Lanka tells WHO Mental Health Forum

Sri Lanka updated the global healthcare community last week on progress made in advancing mental health, in an address to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Mental Health Forum in Geneva.

Speaking at the event, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka in Geneva Ambassador A. L. A. Azeez spelt out out improvements made in healthcare support for mental health patients as well as steps taken to improve the “working environment that could foster good health and wellbeing among the Sri Lankan population.”

A press release issued by the Permanent Mission noted that Ambassador Azeez dealt with three main points at the forum: 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 assures security, empathy and care for at-risk individuals.

The envoy also 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. 

“If the policy of ‘Leave No One Behind’ is to have any practical meaning, it is important that the message should resonate with people at all levels,” the statement quoted Azeez as saying.

Azeez further noted that a proper assessment of all risk factors is in order, if comprehensive mental healthcare is to be effectively ensured. He added that 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 programmes for healthcare providers on mental health; programmes on prevention and rehabilitation for alcohol and substance abuse; and operationalisation 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.

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