Happy Human Rights Day, everyone! December 10th reminds us that it is a right for everyone to live a happy, healthy life that we can be proud of. One very important and basic human right is the right to health. Article 25 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.” The right to health is not just for physical health, but also for mental health. You guys know that we like to spread the word, far and wide that mental health is just as important as physical health, but many countries across the globe think otherwise.
The World Health Organization estimates that the leading cause of ill health and disability on a global scale, stems from mental illness and neurological disorders. However, there is an immense lack of interest from governments to improve upon this. The W.H.O’s Project Atlas, which documents mental health resources around the globe, found that 41% of countries do not have any sort of mental health policy in place.
Although there is still a huge social stigma here in Canada, we are fortunate that we have a wide-range of access to mental health services within the medical community. In some developing countries, the stigma is so bad that access to mental health services is greatly affected by it.
In India mental health services are not covered under health insurance, so if an individual needs to see a therapist or counsellor, they are forced to pay for it out of pocket.
In Mexico, mental health services are rarely covered under health insurance. This leads many Mexicans to self-medicate with either alcohol or illegally buying prescription drugs on the streets.
In Brazil, most health care services have a limit on how many therapy sessions an individual can have throughout a calendar year. This is typically around 10 sessions and they can only be accessed with a medical recommendation. In regards to psychiatric medication, there is access to it, but it is rarely talked about.
Here in Canada, those living on First Nations reserves have difficulty accessing health services both mental and physical, as nearly 90% of reservations are not accessible by road. The social stigma that surrounds First Nations and mental health is very high, as First Nations youth are 5 to 6 times more likely to die by suicide.
1/5 have mental illness but 5/5 have mental health. Mental health is not a “white people problem” but a problem affects everyone on a global scale. Access to mental health services is a major human rights issue. It cannot be solved over night, but the work that we and other mental health organizations do to end the stigma, is just one small step in the right direction.