The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has launched a campaign in support of people with mental health problems who also suffer from society's stigmatization.
The regional branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) also urged governments to fund healthcare for mentally ill patients who are afraid to seek medical help out of fear of being exposed to prejudice and discriminatory behavior.
The more we talk about our mental health, the closer we get to reducing the stigma surrounding it, said Renato Oliveira e Souza, head of PAHO's Mental Health Department.
And when the stigma diminishes or disappears, seeking and receiving support is more feasible, he added.
Mental health conditions are common worldwide and have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a widespread impact on the entire population. According to a study published in The Lancet, depressive and anxiety disorders increased by 35% and 32% respectively in 2020 in Latin America and the Caribbean due to the pandemic.
Recovering from mental health conditions is possible for most people if they receive the necessary care. For that, health professionals must ensure a safe environment and provide quality, inclusive, and label-free care, Oliveira e Souza underlined.
PAHO's campaign is crucial for people to understand that anyone can face a mental health problem at some point in their lives and this does not have to be a reason to block our objectives, goals, and dreams in life, commented Professor Sahar Vasquez, who experienced a mental health condition first-hand, and is today a member of the Organization's High-Level Commission on Mental Health and COVID-19.
In addition to ending the stigma and discrimination that stand in the way of recovery, PAHO's campaign seeks to train more professionals in this area and make them more available to patients in need.
PAHO's website features videos and other materials on how to reduce stigma and discrimination. The campaign was launched on the eve of World Mental Health Day, which is celebrated annually on October 10 and aims to raise awareness on the matter, which is a fundamental human right.
Over 30 countries in the region have so far joined the initiative and will carry out various awareness-raising actions, PAHO announced.