What you need to know:
- Organisations, individuals, communities … need to build more momentum and, as guardians of the SDGs, hold the UN to account.
Mental health and psycho-social wellbeing were defined as an integral part of health by the World Health Organisation and have been addressed in many United Nations (UN) resolutions. In September 2015, mental health was included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
In this historic step, the UN acknowledged the burden of disease of mental illness, and defined mental health as a priority for global development. On the road to this achievement, many individuals and organisations have played a role in contributing to the inclusion of mental health in the SDGs, one of which is the global initiative.
Built on the experience of the Millennium Development Goals, the aim of the SDG agenda is to eradicate poverty and hunger; promote inclusion, human dignity and equality; protect the planet, promote growth; and foster peace and justice, among others. When world leaders adopted the SDGs, they also committed to prioritise prevention and treatment of noncommunicable diseases, including behavioural development and neurological disorders, which constitute a major challenge to sustainable development.
Mental illness is a leading cause of the global burden of disease. It causes more years lived with disability (32.4 percent) than any other health condition and nearly as many disability adjusted life-years (13.0 percent) as cardiovascular disease (13.5 percent).
People living with mental illness are also more likely to develop physical health problems and have poorer physical health outcomes, including higher rates of premature mortality.
I believe that global prosperity depends on mental health. There is a cyclical relationship between poverty and mental illness. Inequalities in education, income, nutrition, housing and social support, among others, are both risk factors and outcomes of mental challenges. It is sad that every year more than 12 billion working days are lost due to mental illness.
Between 2011 to 2030, mental illness will cost the global economy $16 trillion in lost economic output - more than cancer, diabetes, and respiratory diseases combined. This is why the SDGs provide a rationale and framework to address mental health from many perspectives with renewed urgency. Mental health plays a key role in achieving universal health coverage, access to social justice and human rights, and overall sustainable economic development.
For example, just as economic growth (goal 8) and safe and resilient cities and settlements (goal 11) are linked and depend on an overall mentally healthy society, poverty (goal 1) and mental illness are also strongly linked to each other. This means that mental health is a cross-cutting relevance across the entire range of development and without urgent global action on mental health, we cannot achieve the SDGs.
There’s need for us to recognise the relevance of mental health to many of the SDGs, and must continue to invest in and strengthen mental health with clear indicators. Organisations, individuals, communities and the academia need to build more momentum and, as guardians of the SDGs, hold the United Nations to account.
We must ensure that people living with mental illnesses are included in other development interventions and this will improve mental health and reinforce the principle of leaving no one behind.
Ms Rebecca Cherop is the founder - The Semicolon Nation Africa