A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Results UK, National Conference, where the theme was on the post-2015 agenda. Fittingly, with the proposed targets already in the public forum, and the final decisions being made in September.
The conference discussed broad themes such as inclusive education and a universal health care system, both of which are leading points in beyond 2015 discussions.
Inclusive education provoked an interesting reaction. In 2000, physical disability was ignored completely and the consequence has seen millions of children left behind in a goal, which has aimed for universal primary education. In Africa, 90% of children with disabilities do not attend school.
Since then, the UK in particular has made strides in provision for inclusive education. Former DFID Minister Lynne Featherstone pushed this as an agenda point in the last Government, and all DFID schools from September 2013 would be built fully accessible.
Physical disability and inclusive education is recognised fully in the post-2015 framework, and with those suffering with disabilities often the hardest to reach or the most vulnerable the framework does well to meet this in its target to end extreme poverty by 2030. However the framework does not address mental health and in our conference this was a theme, which was discussed during our education session and also during our event on health. Mental health problems account for almost 13% of the world's total disease burden, affecting up to 450 million people worldwide at any one time, and make up over a quarter of the years people live with disability (Basic Needs). It is also an area, which crosses over into education, health, economics and employment. Poor mental health contributes to poor health. Poor mental health contributes to poor relationships and often an inability to look after oneself and those around you. Poor mental health contributes to a deterioration in performance, whether in school or employment. It can contribute to low self esteem and low attendance. Poor mental health can lead to violence and destruction. A lack of understanding of mental health can lead to isolation and can cause an escalation of the problem.
There are many reasons why mental health problems occur, some are genetic, others are hindered by poor diet and others are a result of life stressors / traumas. Others are caused by relationships or social. Some are the result of illness. In the same way that a disease can impact on a person's wellbeing, mental illness hinders a person's ability. The challenge is that an illness is visible and mental illness is invisible. The argument for recognising invisible illnesses, which prominently feature mental illnesses is significant. People suffering from mental health problems are some of the most vulnerable in society. Often they cannot understand what is happening to them, or why they respond emotionally in the way they do. The need for specialists is significant, I learned that in Ethiopia there are only 3 psychologists in the entire country.
Prevention of mental illness is equally important. Trauma can result from conflict, or emergency. 36% of the world's out of school children live in conflict affected states, sadly these are places that are regularly exposed to traumatic events, which if not dealt with can escalate.
Basic Needs are calling for the current proposed goals to reflect the need for a mental health goal. Currently goal 3 reads: "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages".
Their call is for a more robust, and measurable target:
'The provision of mental and physical health and social care services for people with mental disorders, in parity with resources for services addressing physical health."
They also call for indicators related to the WHO Mental Health action plan, which reflect the following;
(1) 'To ensure that service coverage for people with severe mental disorders in each country will have increased to at least 20% by 2020 (including a community orientated package of interventions for people with psychosis; bipolar affective disorder; or moderate-severe depression).'
(2) 'To increase the amount invested in mental health (as a % of total health budget) by 100% by 2020 in each low and middle income country"
More information can be found on their website or via the twitter hashtag #FundaMentalSDG