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Mental Health Gap Forum, Geneva, 7 October 2013

The UK Mission's Deputy Permanent Representative, Mark Matthews, delivered a statement to the Mental Health Forum organised by the World Health Organisation.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Mark Matthews, UK Deputy Permanent Representative

Mark Matthews, UK Deputy Permanent Representative (Photo : Christopher Black)


Thank you, Director

I’d like to start by thanking WHO for getting us together in this Forum once again. With the multitude of health issues the organisation covers, it’s a challenge to give many of them the profile or time they deserve. That’s why it’s so important that we have this Forum, so we can collectively – not just Member States but NGOs, professional organisations and academia – discuss these important issues.

And today we’re marking something not only important but vital since we last met – the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan, which we endorsed at the World Health Assembly in May. We want to reaffirm our full support for the Plan which mirrors in many ways our own mental health strategy.

Bridging the Mental Health Gap

But before saying a few words about what we’re doing at a national level, I’d like to explain how we’re playing our part internationally. Since 2011 the UK Government, through our Department for International Development, has contributed £6m to a Research Programme, called PRIME, which is looking at the implementation and scaling up of treatment programmes for priority mental disorders in primary and maternal health care in low resource settings.

In Ghana, we’re investing over seven million pounds to improve mental health services and help them implement their recent mental health legislation. This includes supporting them establish community mental health care and ensuring that mental health services are integrated into primary health care.

And in Zambia too, we’re engaged in a partnership scheme which seeks to strengthen mental health services through supporting the training of specialist psychiatrists. And very much in keeping with the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, we’re supporting a Help Age programme in Mozambique.

No Health without Mental Health

Turning to our domestic efforts. We believe mental health is everybody’s business. That’s the call to action we issued in our mental health strategy in 2011. And we’ve already made some good progress.

We’ve enshrined in law the equal importance of mental health, alongside physical health. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 sets out the equal status of mental and physical health.

In terms of universal health coverage, mental health is at the heart of what Government has tasked the National Health Service to deliver.
We’re investing over £400m to give thousands of people, in all areas of the country, access to psychological therapies.

Suicide is one of the six targets in the WHO Action Plan. And on World Suicide Prevention Day in September last year, we launched our latest Suicide Prevention Strategy. Our aim is to sustain and reduce further the relatively low rates of suicide and to respond positively to the challenges we face over the coming years.

And we are all too familiar with the ongoing challenges around stigma and discrimination – which is not just experienced by people with mental health problems but their families and friends too. The Time to Change programme is England’s most ambitious programme to end mental health stigma and that’s why we’ve invested £16 million to support the programme’s work, which is led by two of our mental health charities.

Our Public Health Responsibility Deal has been established to tap into the potential for businesses and other organisations to improve public health and tackle health inequalities. We believe such actors have a clear role to play not just in areas such as food and alcohol but in mental health too. And in London on Thursday we will launch a new pledge in this area which builds on the commitments from industry and others that we already have in place.

Dementia – the ticking timebomb

Before I conclude, let me briefly return to our theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day – Mental Health and Older Adults. The UK will be hosting a Summit on Dementia as part of our Presidency of the G8 this year. And I’m glad to say that the Director General has accepted an invitation to attend. In advance of the Summit, we’re holding an online consultation on dementia research. We would invite you to participate in the consultation, which you can find on our Department of Health website


So thank you again to the WHO for providing us with the space to reflect on these important global health challenges. We warmly welcome the launch of the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan. The UK intends to play its full part in making the vision set out in that plan a reality.

Published 8 October 2013