at a much more holistic approach where recovery is the focus,”
That approach extends to the kinds of services the plan
recommends, Funk adds. “The plan focuses on a coordinated
response from social services and ensures that when you’re
addressing mental health issues, you’re also addressing
educational needs, social care needs, employment needs and so
on,” she says.
The plan’s focus on human rights is also of special interest to
psychologists, she adds.
“Rather than providing treatment and care, the mental health
facilities in many countries can sometimes be perpetrating
human rights abuses against the people in those facilities,” Funk
says, citing such examples as degrading living conditions and
inappropriate use of medications and electro-convulsive therapy.
“The action plan tries to build in a human rights approach that
protects people against human rights abuses but goes a step
further to promote people’s human rights.”
The plan calls for getting patients’ informed consent,
enhancing their role in decision-making and respecting their
autonomy. It emphasizes treatment and care in community
settings, rather than institutions, as another way to help prevent
Another unique aspect of the plan is that it incorporates
concrete goals, says Funk. “This is really the first time we’ve set
clear targets to be reached for mental health over the next years,”
she says. Goals include ensuring that 80 percent of countries
have introduced or updated national plans for mental health to
conform with international human rights instruments and that
80 percent of countries routinely collect and report on a core set
of mental health indicators.
Psychologists will be among those helping to put the plan
into action and ensuring those goals are met, says University
of Ottawa psychology professor Pierre Ritchie, PhD, the
former secretary-general of the International Union of
Psychological Science. Ritchie, WHO main representative-psychology, headed the psychology delegation to the launch
Psychologists will have two key roles to play, says Ritchie.
First, they can help identify appropriate psychological
Second, they will help evaluate progress toward the
indicators, says Ritchie.
“We’re very well-placed to develop and interpret that
Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.
evidence and contribute to making policy,” he says. “We can
help [countries] determine what is the best investment.”
To download the Mental Health Action Plan, visit www.who.
int/mental_health/publications/action_plan/en/ index.html. n
The leaders participating in the launch of the World Health Organization Mental Health Action Plan are, from left, Dr. Pierre Ritchie,
Dr. Nadine J. Kaslow, Dr. Shekhar Saxena and Dr. Geoffrey Reed.