A Historic Event at the United Nations in Mental Health; UN Defines Mental Health as a Policy Priority in Latest Global Development Agenda

Mental health advocates calling for people to sign petition and send emails in support of strong indicators to help ensure accountability and success.

This past weekend the United Nations made a historic statement on the importance of mental health by including it in the new Development Agenda 2030. This agenda is designed to be 'a plan of action of the people for the people' and will be the leading global development policy of the next 15 years.

While this is a great milestone, mental health advocates are asking for health, women's rights, human rights, individuals and activists around the world to unite and take a stand for inclusion of strong mental health indicators to ensure words are followed by actions. People can help by leveraging their social media sites to spread the word, signing an online petition, and writing emails to the United Nations encouraging the member states to create strong and robust indicators.

Research suggests that without measurements goals are not effective. These indicators play a crucial role in ensuring that progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals is being made and nations are being held accountable to tackling the real challenges facing the mental health community.

This is a momentous declaration by the United Nations showing a clear commitment to mental health. The UN state that they 'envisage a world...where physical, mental and social well-being are assured.' They further declare that in order 'to promote physical and mental health and well-being, and to extend life expectancy for all, we must achieve universal health coverage and access to quality health care. No one must be left behind."

"Until a cause becomes a (social) movement, authentic, even transformational change, will not occur. The 60s gave us the Civil Rights Movement, the 90s the Aids Movement. Let's make Mental Health the 21st Century Movement."
-Congressman Patrick Kennedy

One in 4 people in the world experiences a mental health condition in his or her lifetime, and a significant number of those are not treated. In most countries of the world people with mental health problems are not treated, because of stigma, lack of mental health systems established, and/or not enough services available. In low income countries up to 80 percent of the people do not receive treatment and people with mental health conditions are often subject to inappropriate treatment and human rights violations.

They are left behind in fear and isolation. Many people who experience a mental health problem cannot fully participate in society and contribute to the growth of their nation. Countries lose billions, and by some estimates trillions, of dollars every year by missing out on these people.

Now we need strong and robust indicators to make the Agenda 2030 a reality.

In the coming months the UN will be negotiating the indicators to measure the Sustainable Development Goals. These indicators will be crucial, because they will make progress measurable and will help us, the people, to hold countries and their governments liable to their commitments and achievements.

We need to join together to push for powerful mental health indicators. Visit change.org to sign the petition in support of the indicators proposed by FundaMentalSDG, a global initiative to strengthen mental health in global development that is fully aligned with the WHO Global Mental Health Action Plan 2015-2030.

In addition, FundaMentalSDG has drafted a position paper and supporting documents. Please send these documents to your national statistics department (if you have a direct contact to them, or to a general email address). You can also send these to UN STATs: statistics@un.org, with a simple email asking for inclusion of the indicators 23 & 28.

Special thanks to Nicole Votruba for helping contribute to this article. Nicole is co-ordinator of the #FundaMentalSDG initiative, and together with a Steering Group of renowned international mental health specialists, they are advocating for a clear mental health target in the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.