The World Health Organisation (WHO) has adopted a resolution moved by India that focuses on the global burden of mental disorders and the need for a comprehensive, coordinated response from health and social sectors at the country level.

The just-concluded 130th executive board meeting of the WHO adopted the resolution, moved by India and supported by the United States of America and Switzerland. This marks the first time in over a decade that WHO has, at its highest levels, taken note of this very major public health concern.

Mental disorders account for 13 per cent of the global burden of the diseases and, in keeping with latest thinking, the resolution recognizes the importance of early identification, care and recovery, the problems of stigma, poverty and homelessness and the need for community based intervention including de-institutionalised care. It is clearly recognized that all countries must take steps to promote mental health and empower persons with mental disorders to lead a full and productive life in the community.

India had played a key role in getting mental disorders included in the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) list at the first Ministerial Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-communicable Disease Control in Moscow last year. Pleading for its case, India had argued that “like all non-communicable diseases, mental disorders required long term treatment and affected the quality of life.”

The principal non-communicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases, which are the leading causes of preventable morbidity and disability, and currently cause over 60 per cent of global deaths, 80 per cent of which occur in developing countries. By 2030, the NCDs are estimated to contribute to 75 per cent of global deaths.

India is already working towards framing a mental health policy based on internationally-accepted guidelines. It will also keep in mind the specific context of mental illness in the country and take into account the draft Mental Health Care Bill, 2010.

A 12-member policy group entrusted to frame the National Mental Health Care Policy and Plan will prepare a situational analysis of the need for mental health care in the country, taking into account the issues of human resources, essential drug procurement and distribution, advocacy, prevention, and rehabilitation of mental health patients.