5 October 2021

Governments Must Prioritize Mental Health, Secretary-General Tells Global Summit, Underscoring Two Thirds of People in Developing Countries Receive No Treatment

Following is the text of UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ video message to the Global Mental Health Summit:  “Mind Our Rights, Now!”, in Paris, and held virtually today:

Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:   we are in the middle of a growing global mental health crisis.  The loss of loved ones, disruption to jobs and education, and the social isolation caused by the COVID‑19 pandemic have led to rising levels of stress and depression.

Meanwhile, the climate crisis has led to entire communities being faced with homelessness, loss of livelihoods and loss of opportunities.  Economic hardship, discrimination and marginalization are leading millions of people to take enormous risks in the search for a better future.  And 1 in 3 women will suffer gender‑based violence during her lifetime, often with lasting psychological consequences.

But in low- and middle-income countries, more than 75 per cent of people with mental health conditions receive no treatment whatsoever.  Governments spend an average of just over 2 per cent of their health budgets on mental health.  And people with mental health conditions are often subjected to coercion, poor living conditions, neglect, violence and abuse.  This is unacceptable.  There is no health without mental health.  Everyone has a right to quality treatment for mental health conditions that fully respects their human rights.  All countries have signed up to universal health coverage, including mental health coverage, by 2030 – one of the most important targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  But in the middle of this crisis, we must act now, to save lives and prevent suffering.

This Summit, the third of its kind, is an important step to raise awareness and share innovative ideas.  I welcome a growing recognition that public health‑care systems must include and prioritize mental health.  I urge Governments to continue along this path by increasing the proportion of their health budgets allocated to mental health.  I encourage them to include basic mental health care in training programmes for primary health‑care providers.  This substantially increases the care available.

And all health care, including the treatment of mental health conditions, must respect people’s human rights.  This is a moral imperative – and it is more effective.  I therefore particularly welcome this Summit’s emphasis on human rights.  I also commend its multi‑stakeholder approach.  By working together, Governments, mental health professionals, civil society, academia and philanthropies can have far greater impact.  I thank the Government of France for convening this Summit, and wish you every success in your deliberations.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.