World Health Assembly Passes Action Plan Resolution for Mental Health

By Elizabeth Carll, Ph.D.
July 23, 2012

On May 22, the World Health Assembly unanimously passed a landmark resolution, EB130.R8, to develop a comprehensive action plan covering services, policies, plans, strategies, programs and legislation to enable persons with mental disorders to live a full and productive life in the community.

I had the privilege of observing the pas-sage of this milestone resolution with more than 30 countries giving individual oral statements in support. The European Union and the African Union were also represented by designated member states.

The World Health Assembly resolution recommends the inclusion of strategies to:

  • Improve provision of quality treatment and care by including mental health into broader health policies and strategies and expanding evidenced based mental health interventions into general health services.
  • Improve access for people with, or at risk of, mental disorders to receive opportunities for education, employment and social services.
  • Introduce human rights protection for people with mental health conditions by developing policies and laws and supporting the development of a strong civil society.
  • Protect and promote mental health by targeting early childhood years, aging, prevention of domestic violence and abuse, workplace stress and suicide prevention pro-grams.

The above landmark resolution would not have been possible without the advocacy of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the support of governments and the work of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The NGO Committee on Mental Health in New York, affiliated with the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations, worked in partnership with the NGO Forum on Health in Geneva, to help move this important agenda forward.

The NGO Committee on Mental Health and the NGO Forum on Health are consortiums of organizations dedicated to advocating for global mental and physical health.

The September 2011 UN Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), which also addressed the inclusion of mental health as a risk factor for NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory illness, helped pave the way for the WHA resolution on mental health.

The WHO’s projection of depression becoming the second greatest global burden of disease by 2020 and the first by 2030 portends a growing epidemic that requires focused action to deal with the psycho-social, health and economic consequences for all nations.

It was the consensus of the 193 member states of the UN General Assembly that effective control of NCDs will need to take place at the primary care level. As a result, mental health will need to be incorporated into primary care for effective intervention and prevention.

The looming global epidemic of chronic illness and the related mental disorders would be further addressed by the comprehensive action plan to be developed from the WHA resolution.

In addition, the WHO Quality Rights Project was launched in June. The poor quality of mental health services and extensive violations taking place within services in countries all over the world has led to the development of this important initiative.

The project aims to unite and empower people to improve the quality of care and promote human rights in both inpatient and outpatient mental health facilities and social care homes.

Mental health is now on the global agenda and we must remain vigilant and continue to advocate for the implementation and funding of these essential services for the future well-being of all nations.

Elizabeth Carll, Ph.D., is the chair of the United Nations NGO Committee on Mental Health. She is a representative to the United Nations from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and serves on the governing bodies of several NGOs. She is also a licensed psychologist in private practice in New York. She may be reached at

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