WASHINGTON: In a bid to eradicate human rights abuses against people suffering from mental illness in developing countries, the University of
Melbourne in Australia has come up with an international observatory to improve global mental health.
Bob McMullan, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, will launch the Observatory on Mental health Systems (IOMHS) at the University of Melbourne.
"The health systems in low and middle income countries are hugely under-funded often resulting in enormous neglect and abuse of the human rights of people with mental illness," said Associate Professor Harry Minas, Director of the University's Centre for International Mental health, who has led the initiative.
Human rights abuse includes the restraining of mentally ill people in shackles, or stocks, in a practice known as Pasung, which is still active in Indonesia and many other low-income countries.
Another less visible, but not less important, human rights abuse was the lack of mental health services even for people with severe and disabling mental disorders.
Minas said that 80 to 90 percent of schizophrenia patients in low-income countries receive little or no treatment.
Also, mental disorders are responsible globally for 35 percent of all years lived with a disability.
Hailed as the first of its kind, the observatory will help develop research by monitoring and evaluating programs at national and district level.
It will rely on the establishment of strong partnerships with key stakeholders, including Ministries of health, university research groups, local and international NGOs, professional associations and mental health practitioners.
The observatory will begin its work in Asia and the Pacific region, where Minas and his team have been working for more than 10 years.
"The good news is that our mental health programs have made an impact in Indonesia and in Sri Lanka and raised the awareness of the need for change," said Minas.
He added: "Aceh and the Southern province of Sri Lanka now have functioning community mental health services with trained nurses and GPs and village volunteers. Many thousands of people have received treatment.
"The Aceh Government has acknowledged the mental health development work that has been done in the region and has committed to eradicating the practice of Pasung. The Sri Lankan Government has requested that the mental health development program be extended to other parts of the country, particularly where the recent conflict has been so devastating.