Global meet denounces deficiency in tackling mental health

A Correspondent in Berlin, Germany

A keynote address with a difference was sought of former Governor General (New Zealand) Sir Anand Satyanand by World Psychiatric Association President Professor Dinesh Bhugra of London (an Indian Newslink columnist), for its Triennial Meeting in Berlin on September 11, 2017.

The Professor wanted to insert views additional to those coming forward from medical professionals at the event which drew an international but substantially European attendance of more than 10,000 practitioners.

Sir Anand joined a small number of other New Zealanders including Adjunct Professor Anil Thapliyal (a friend and well-wisher of this newspaper), Dr Peter McGeorge and Professor Sally Merry, providing papers or giving addresses.

Rights of mentally challenged

Sir Anand’s brief was to address the topic of the human rights of those with mental illness.

He began by traversing the international instruments from the time of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, through the 1966 Conventions about Rights and, lastly, the Development Goals at the 2000 Millennium and last year, 2016.

He observed that international acknowledgement of Mental Health as a central goal for achievement had lagged behind many other items, with statements in the instruments thus being generally merely aspirational.

Sir Anand pointed out the ever-present incidence of dementia, schizophrenia, depression and addiction in countries all-round the globe, and the disturbing number of people, nearing a million worldwide, who end their lives annually by suicide.

Sheer neglect

A central part of his address was based on a trenchant June 2017 report presented by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights who wrote that “mental health has often been neglected” and that “when it does receive resources it becomes dominated by ineffective and harmful models and imbalances.”

Sir Anand then took up the rights based approach suggested by the Special Rapporteur and argued in favour of taking up the changes to policies and laws called for by the Rapporteur.  He called for action to be commenced immediately to put things to right.

He went on to categorise what is called for as being like the construction of a building with the foundation being the international instruments, the sides being acceptance and adoption of the policies in the June report.

The UN goal

Sir Anand said that the resulting roof would be a reflection of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16 which is to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

He noted what he termed was the apt analogy of a house used by leading New Zealand psychiatrist and Maori scholar, Sir Mason Durie.

In the Whare Tapa Wha there are four dimensions – Taha Wairua (spiritual health), Taha Hinengaro (mental health), Taha Tinana (physical health) and Taha Whanau (family health).  In that construction, mental health enjoys a proper and central place.

The address produced a lively reaction of questions and comments.

Photo Caption:

Sir Anand Satyanand speaking in Berlin on September 11, 2017

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