Rwanda and Bangladesh have made six commitments that will be implemented to fight and prevent Mental Health illnesses locally, but also suggested for other Commonwealth member States.
The commitments were made during the Mental Health Side Event of CHOGM 2022. The event was themed “Rethinking Mental Health: A Commonwealth Call to Support, Care and Transform” which aimed at addressing the importance of mental health in commonwealth countries.
The event held on 23 June aimed at taking action on the continued calls from the global health community to address the rising global burden of mental health that has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns, global conflicts and economic hardships.
The six commitments included ensuring inclusion of mental health policies in Commonwealth countries, Mobilizing Mental Health Funding, launching of a targeted campaign for children, adolescent and youth and Fighting stigma and discrimination.
Other commitments are Empowering people and health workers on fighting Mental Health and Advancing data, innovation, and science in addressing mental health challenges in Commonwealth Member States.
“This haemorrhage of resources, this costly human tragedy, makes one thing clear: mental health is the bedrock upon which the welfare of our communities lies. We cannot allow this foundation to crack, without us joining forces, to solder it,” First Lady Jeannette Kagame said.
“There is no brightness in our shared future, without mental health. And, there is no Commonwealth without Common Mental Health!” Mrs. Kagame said.
She pointed out that Rwandans are all-too-well placed, to know this because their history is not only marred with the trauma of loss, and undeniably, of dehumanization, especially during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“Our history is also defined by the monumental effort of overcoming, following unimaginable collective psychological, physical and emotional suffering,” Mrs. Kagame added.
According to the Mental Health session participants, Children, adolescence and youth are particularly critical stages of life for mental health and above 10% of children, adolescents and youth experience a mental disorder.
They said that the Mental disorders include neuro-developmental disorders and that young people have been disproportionately affected by mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and before.
“Rethinking mental health and addressing social stigma against persons affected by mental health disorder has been a personal and national campaign. However, much effort is needed. There is no life and Commonwealth without mental health,” Dr Abdul Momen, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister said.
In Rwanda, next year research expected to be update current data from 2018 which showed high cases of mental health problems amongst youth and genocide survivors.
The research will be conducted by the Ministry of Health through Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) as a better way of understanding the current status of the country following COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the 2018 Rwanda Mental Health Survey found that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is eight-fold more prevalent among Genocide survivors compared to the general population (27.9% vs 3.6%).
The research also showed that PTSD is the second leading cause of mental disorders behind depression (35.0 %) and at least one of five Rwandans have a mental health condition.