at United Nations Agencies in 2010-2011
The World Federation for Mental
Health has had Special Consultative Status to the United Nations
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 1963. It has had much
earlier contacts with some United Nations agencies, having been
founded in 1948, the same year as the United Nations itself. A
close connection has been maintained since those early
beginnings with the World Health Organization (WHO), a UN agency
with headquarters in Geneva. WFMH also has formal relationships
with the UN Department of Public Information, UNICEF and UNESCO.
Ongoing informal relationships have been maintained with the UN
Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the UN
Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and
the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the
International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). WFMH
volunteer UN Representatives participate in events in both New
York and Geneva.
In New York the Federation’s UN
Representatives participate in civil society activities
including those at the UN Commission on the Status of Women
(since 1993) and the UN Commission on Social Development (since
1998). They are members of the NGO Committee on Mental Health,
which the WFMH Main Representative helped to found in 1996. They
help to organize World Mental Health Day programs for the UN
Advocacy on Non-Communicable
In 2011 WFMH focused its
advocacy on pressing for the inclusion of mental illnesses among
the major non-communicable diseases (NCDs) to be included at the
General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on the prevention and
control of NCDs, to be held at UN Headquarters on 19-20
September 2011. This is part of a broader WFMH campaign called
“The Great Push for Mental Health” to urge governments to
provide an adequate budget for mental illnesses in their health
planning, and to encourage grassroots organizations to
participate in advocacy.
cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are the
priority illnesses on the agenda of the September UN High-Level
Meeting. Mental illnesses were given the briefest of mentions
despite their widespread prevalence. WFMH presented a statement
to the meeting of the World Health Organization’s Executive
Board in January asking for more attention to mental illnesses.
A second statement was submitted to the WHO’s World Health
Assembly in May, where WFMH’s Senior Representative in Geneva,
Myrna Lachenal, read the following paragraphs into the record on
behalf of three organizations:
Joint Statement of the
World Federation for Mental Health and the NGO Forum for Health
and the Alliance for Health Promotion at the 64th World Health
Assembly, Geneva, 16-24 May 2011 : Agenda item 13.12 Prevention
and control of noncommunicable diseases
Mental illnesses are not
only a risk factor for other NCDs, but are often a consequence
of having diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular diseases and
respiratory diseases. Without addressing mental illnesses
explicitly outcomes related to NCD initiatives will not only be
less effective—but also, as the research shows—will cost more.
For example, we know that diabetics have twice the risk of being
depressed as non-diabetics; and treating both diabetes and
depression results in improved medication adherence and lower
healthcare costs. If depression is addressed, outcomes improve
and medical expenditures are reduced.
We understand the concern
that the inclusion of all mental illnesses may not be possible
at this stage. However, as the WHO mhGAP Programme shows, there
are cost-effective, evidence- based interventions for a limited
set of diagnoses. We are advocating that these be included as
part of the NCD armamentarium. The bottom line is that we need
to ensure that mental illnesses are included in some form as
part of the action plan, recognizing both the linkages with
other NCDs as well as the state-of-the-science. Let us not
undermine the NCD effort right from the start by excluding
mental illnesses and substance abuse.
WFMH Secretary General Dr.
Vijay Ganju attended WHO’s Global Forum for NGOs, held in Moscow
on 27 April 2011 prior to a meeting of Health Ministers to
prepare for the September High-Level Meeting at the United
Nations. He also attended the Informal Interactive Hearing on
Non-Communicable Diseases at the United Nations on 16 June 2011,
and submitted a Civil Society Statement on Non-Communicable
Diseases and Mental and Substance Abuse Disorders which was
supported by 46 other international and national organizations.
A follow-up letter was also sent to WHO.
Activities at United Nations
Headquarter in New York in 2010-2011:
WFMH participates in the
activities of the NGO Committee on Mental Health, a coalition of
mental health organizations with consultative status at the
United Nations. WFMH’s Representatives attend the monthly
meetings of the NGO Committee and help to organize various
programs for its Working Groups. Nancy Wallace, WFMH’s Main
Representative, is a former chair of the NGO Committee and is
Co-Convenor of its Working Group on Trauma and Mental Health.
Linda Conte is Vice-Chair of the NGO Committee and a Co-Convenor
of the Committee’s Working Group on Children, Youth and Mental
Health. Ricki Kantrowitz is a member of the NGO Committee on the
Status of Women, and has given many years of volunteer service
to events at the annual session of the UN Commission on the
Status of Women.
Nancy Wallace and Linda Conte
are WFMH’s Representatives to the UN Department of Public
Information/NGO Relations. They attend the DPI Briefings for
NGOs and forward information about UN activities to WFMH.
At the 54th Session of the UN
Commission on the Status of Women, 1-12 March 2010, WFMH
sponsored a workshop on “Natural Disasters and Mental Health:
Consequences for Recovery and Resilience in Women and Children
(9 March 2010). Just before the Commission’s session, a special
meeting was held in New York to mark the fifteenth anniversary
of the UN Conference on Women which took place in Beijing in
1995. Two of WFMH’s UN Representatives attended the “Global NGO
Forum for Women: Beijing + 15.” They had been part of a WFMH
delegation that attended the UN Conference in Beijing.
At the 55th Session of the
Commission on the Status of Women in 2011, WFMH sponsored a side
event on “Promoting Women’s Mental Health and Well Being in the
Workplace (2 March 2011). The Federation also sponsored a side
event on “The Impart of HIV/AIDS and Mental Health for Asian
Women (3 March).