No Commonwealth without mental health – First Lady

No Commonwealth without mental health - First Lady
No Commonwealth without mental health - First Lady

Africa-Press – Rwanda. First Lady Jeannette Kagame has said that there is no Commonwealth without mental health, at a dinner held under the theme “Rethinking mental health: A Commonwealth call to support, care and transform,” on Wednesday, June 22 in Kigali.

The dinner, which was among other dignitaries graced by the WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was held on the margins of the ongoing events lined up for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). “There is no health without mental health. There is no development, without mental health. There is no brightness in our shared future, without mental health. And, ladies and gentlemen, there is no Commonwealth without Common Mental Health,” Mrs Kagame said.

She made the remarks after explaining that poor mental health breaks down communities by disrupting the wellness of families, and poisoning socio-economic development.

“This haemorrhage of resources, this costly human tragedy, makes one thing clear: mental health is the bedrock upon which the welfare of our communities lies. We cannot allow this foundation to crack, without us joining forces, to solder it,” the First Lady said.

This CHOGM side event whose aim was to echo the Commonwealth’s principle of promoting access to affordable health care and removing wide disparities and unequal living standards was echoed, was attended by different Ministers of Foreign Affairs, international organisations, Senior Officials, Members of the delegation, and High Commissioners.

It was held in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, the British Asian Trust, Shuchona Foundation, and Bangladesh- whose Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Abdul Momen was present, with the support of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

WHO data show that depression is one of the leading causes of disability, while suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds.

Also, people with severe mental health conditions die prematurely as much as two decades early due to preventable physical conditions.

The report also shows that while many mental health conditions can be effectively treated at relatively low cost, the gap between people needing care and those with access to care remains substantial, making effective treatment coverage remains extremely low.

The First Lady gave recommendations on how the Commonwealth can rethink mental health for better results.

First, she called for investment of more financial resources in mental health research, its prevention, skills training and treatment.

She added that mental illness stigma should be eradicated and called for development of a global culture of tolerance and self-accountability.

“We need and must, deploy effective collaboration between mental health experts, from public and private sectors, from state and non-governmental agencies, across the Commonwealth to build resilient structures of mental health support,” she added.

These recommendations were echoed by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of WHO, who also talked about stigma eradication and more investment in mental health integration and strengthening of health systems.

Foreign Minister, Dr Vincent Biruta said that Rwanda reinforced its mental health provision following heavy disorders that emerged after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and reiterated the need of adequate deployment of resources for proper treatment of mental health illnesses among youths.

“With mental health disproportionately affecting our youth, globally, it is our duty to ensure that we properly address its challenges and provide all the needed support to ensure a bright future for our youth and hence our nations,” Biruta said.

At the event, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister, Dr Abdul Momen, noted that rethinking mental health and addressing social stigma against persons affected by mental health disorder has been a personal and national campaign led by Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, under which this country has enacted mental health act 2018 and national mental health strategic plan 2020 just over the past three years.

This dinner was also graced by the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland QC, among other distinguished guests.

The event also saw Biruta and Momen jointly announce the Dhaka-Kigali Compact on Mental Health, to be implemented across Commonwealth countries.

More than 5,000 delegates have been in the country to attend the different forums and side events ahead of the Head of Governments meeting that will be on Friday, June 24.

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