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Experts urge U.N. to address mental health

January 20, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mental illness and drug abuse can wreak havoc in global societies and economies, and the U.N. General Assembly should devote a special session to the matter, global health experts said on Tuesday.

Every country in the world is affected by the burden of mental, neurological and substance-use disorders (MNS), but often sufferers face discrimination and human rights abuse, said the article in PLoS Medicine.

“The time has come for recognition at the highest levels of global development, namely the U.N. General Assembly, of the urgent need for a global strategy to address the global burden of MNS disorders,” the article said.

Lead authors were Vikram Patel from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Judith Bass from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in the United States.

Investment is needed in three key areas: expanding knowledge about mental health disorders, better access to evidence-based programs of care and treatment, and protection of human rights.

A list of key needs to be addressed and steps to take could be enshrined in a “People’s Charter for Mental Health” accounting for input from policymakers, families, researchers and other advocates.

The article said neuropsychiatric disorders would account for the loss of some $16.1 trillion globally over the next two decades, with “dramatic impacts on productivity and quality of life,” particularly as the population ages.

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