This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day – Mental Health is a Universal Human Right – calls for WHO, member states and partners to accelerate efforts in mental health in a human-rights based approach.
WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, Poonam Khetrapal said, “The focus of human rights has historically been on needs such as food, shelter, and healthcare.
Khetrapal added, “Mental health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a state of wellbeing in which an individual realises their abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to their community.
“It is not merely the absence of mental disorders but a positive state of mental and emotional wellbeing. This definition aligns with the broader conception of human rights as not only freedoms from harm but freedoms to lead a fulfilling life.”
She emphasised that every individual, regardless of their location, occupation, or identity, is entitled to achieve the highest attainable level of mental wellbeing.
This encompasses the entitlement to safeguard oneself from mental health risks, access to mental healthcare that is readily available, easily accessed, and of high quality, as well as the entitlement to freedom and involvement within their community.
Several nations have updated their mental health policies and laws to include the components of international human rights instruments and other member states are in the process of incorporating these components.
There has been significant progress in providing access to mental health services through strengthening primary care and community-based mental health services in several countries.