Intended for healthcare professionals


Mental health: tackle poverty, inequality, and isolation, says UN

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 03 July 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l4521
  1. Sophie Arie
  1. London

The key to preventing mental ill health lies not in biomedical explanations of distress but in dealing with the inequalities of daily life, says a UN report. Sophie Arie finds out more

In her final days in office the UK prime minister, Theresa May, recently called for mental health to be a priority.

“Too many of us have seen first hand the devastating consequences of mental illness,” she said on 16 June, calling for more interventions to prevent and identify mental health problems. We should never accept a rise in mental health problems as inevitable, she said: preventing mental illness should get the “urgent attention it deserves.”

May announced a raft of measures, including teacher training in identifying children with mental health problems, a £1m (€1.1m; $1.3m) competition to find new ways to tackle mental ill health among students, and more suicide prevention training for NHS staff.1

But, while these measures are no doubt welcome, they miss the main point, says the United Nations. A hard hitting report from Dainius Pūras,2 the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, says that if governments truly want to stem growing rates of mental illness and …

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