Declaration on mental health in Africa: moving to implementation

The following declaration is a slightly shortened text from the original published declaration in the peer reviewed journal Global Health Action, and available at http://www.globalhealthaction.net/index.php/gha/article/view/24589 . The original list of signatories is also available in the published declaration.

Recognising that there is no health without mental health, that widespread poverty results in greater vulnerability to mental ill health, and that mental health therefore deserves particular attention on the African continent, we the signatories of this petition declare that:

1. Africa has a historic opportunity now to improve the mental health and wellbeing of its citizens;


2. There is an urgent need for political vision, commitment and leadership at the highest level to encourage national dialogue on mental health. Governments should take the lead, while working with and supporting an inclusive, cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach that has been found to be critical for dealing effectively with mental conditions and in addressing the social circumstances that create disability associated with these;


3. While supportive legislation and access to mental health services are crucial, there is urgent need to address stigma, social exclusion and discrimination as these greatly contribute to improving the quality of life. Communities that include service users, their families and other stakeholder groups must play a major role in bringing about these positive changes;


4. There is an opportunity for every African government to build on the MHAP to develop a National Mental Health Strategy and Plan (Roadmap). We support the evidence and experience that indicate that such a plan must:


i. Encompass the principle of parity in providing resources for mental and physical health alike;


ii. Integrate mental health care services at all levels of the health system, with a focus on integration into primary health care;


iii. Include provision of resources for training, supervising and supporting different cadres of health and other personnel with an emphasis on task-sharing;


iv. Take a life-course approach, recognising that there are different needs at different stages in life such as pregnancy, infancy, childhood and older age, and that investment in early intervention can reduce later disability;


v. Allow for targeting of actions to address the specific needs of groups such as women, the very poor, the homeless, etc - many of whom have been historically neglected. Such specific focus is necessary because these groups may have different risk factors, disease prevalence, and help-seeking behaviours;


vi. Be person-centred and holistic, providing psychological and social care as well as improving access to biomedical services;


vii. Specifically responds to the mental health needs that arise as a consequence of violence in society, especially against women and children;


viii. Include provision of care that is evidence-based and culturally appropriate; and


ix. Pay particular attention to the link between mental health and other health and development priorities like HIV/AIDS and Maternal and Child Health. Integrating mental health into other health and development initiatives provides an opportunity to improve outcomes in other sectors, while allowing efficient investment in mental health through these other programmes.


We also recognize that African governments and civil society organizations have the immediate opportunity to join the leadership of those advocating for the inclusion of mental health in the UN post-2015 development agenda.

More information, including the background for the petition and further details and references to support the points called for above, can be found at www.globalhealthaction and specifically at http://www.globalhealthaction.net/index.php/gha/article/view/24589

The original signatories to this declaration include:

Alem, Atalay; College of Health Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
Berg, Astrid; Dept. of Child Psychiatry, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Esan, Yomi; Depta. of Psychiatry, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Geyer, Hendrik; Director, Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), South Africa
Gureje, Oye; Dept. of Psychiatry, UCH, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Hofman, Karen; Director, Priority cost effective lessons for systems strengthening, University o Witwatersrand, School of Public Health, South Africa
Jacobsson, Lars; Dept. of Psychiatry, Umeå University, Sweden
Jernström, Lotta; Dept. of Health and Social Care, SKL, Sweden
Kaaya, Sylvia; Dept. of Psychiatry, Muhimbili University, Tanzania
Kruger, Lou-Marie; Dept. of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Lategan, Bernard; Former Director, STIAS
le Roux, Ingrid; Philani Child Health & Nutrition Project, Cape Town, South Africa
Loza, Nasser; Behman Psychiatric Hospital, Cairo, Egypt
Lund, Crick; Centre for Public Mental Health, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Marais, Sandra; Researcher, South African Medical Research Council
Moodley, Keymanthri; Dept. of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Myers, Bronwyn; South African Medical Research Council
Olofsson, Maud; Former Deputy Prime Minister, Sweden
Petersen, Inge; PRIME South Africa & Dept. of Psychology, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa
Seedat, Soraya; Dept. of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Stein, Dan; Dept. of Psychiatry & Mental Health, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Swartz, Leslie; Dept. of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Tollman, Stephen; Agincourt, School of Public Health, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
Tomlinson, Mark; Dept. of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Weich, Lize; Dept. of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

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Petition highlights

  • This petition will go live next week when an article offering background is published with the peer reviewed scholarly journal, Global Health Action.