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PAHO appoints commission to address mental health crisis in the Americas

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Posted: Monday, May 9, 2022. 5:11 pm CST.

By Benjamin Flowers: The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has appointed a high-level commission to look into what is being described as a “mental health crisis” in the Americas, that has been made worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Caracol Radio reports that the commission, which was appointed on Friday, May 6,  will be chaired by Epsy Campbell Barr, outgoing Vice President of Costa Rica, and co-chaired by Belize’s own Néstor Méndez, Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS). The commission is also comprised of a team of professionals in the area of mental health taken from Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the United States, Guatemala, and Mexico.

PAHO said the Commission will work in five key areas: recovery from the pandemic and promotion of mental health as a priority; the mental health needs of vulnerable populations; integrating mental health into universal health coverage; financing; and promotion and prevention of mental health conditions.

The Commission is tasked with producing a report with key recommendations to improve mental health in the Americas. That report is expected to be completed in the last quarter of 2022.

We have great expectations that the work of the Commission leads to raising mental health to the highest level of government providing a catalyst for significant and lasting reform of services and care,” said PAHO Director Carissa Etienne in a video conference.

Anselm Hennis, director of noncommunicable diseases and mental health at PAHO, stressed that mental health in the region needs urgent attention as nearly 90 percent of people in the Americas do not receive the treatment they need, particularly for acute psychosis. He also noted that suicides account for 95,000 deaths in the region annually, which is a 17 percent rise when compared to 2000.

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