Global Health Must Include Mental Health | Craig and Marc Kielburger

“I just happened to find him sitting in our lobby with his stuff, with nowhere to go,” she said. “I sat with him three or four hours until his mother came.” Such stories are legion — and illustrate longstanding, systemic problems within the VA’s vast health care system. During the past decade, the VA has struggled to meet the growing demands of veterans for mental health care, hiring hundreds of professionals, opening community clinics, expanding the veteran crisis hotline , and contracting for outside mental health care. But shortages persist. The VA currently is advertising to fill 1,563 mental health job openings, and VA staff are not encouraged to send distress signals to VA headquarters in Washington to report shortages. Although the VA purports to enforce the No Fear Act intended to protect internal federal government whistleblowers, VA employees said the protections are routinely ignored by supervisors. “There is no such thing as ‘no fear’ within the VA,” said a mid-level VA employee, who like others quoted in this article asked not to original site be identified by name or location for fear of retaliation.
VA Mental Health Care Delays, Staff Shortages, Plague Veterans

Stronger mental health leads to economic returns from enhanced human capital, increased productivity and lower net health costs. And they empower people everywhere along their journey toward a healthier and happier life. The next challenge is scaling up these mental health programs to reach all the communities and countries that would benefit. The World Health Organization estimates the cost at between only US$2 and US$4 per capita per year — but that’s billions of dollars that are hard to come by among competing development priorities that are more visible and “marketable,” like fighting malaria or building schools. So while mental health is often cited for its role in promoting overall global health and tackling global poverty, it’s not an explicit development objective for most foreign aid agencies or charities. Mental health interventions are slowly working their way into post-disaster planning and pilot projects like those supported by Canada’s government-funded Grand Challenges foundation. But until mental health gets a more deliberate place on the development agenda, low-income people, communities and countries will continue struggling to move themselves up the economic development ladder. Craig and Marc Kielburger are co-founders of international charity and educational partner, Free The Children.
Global Health Must Include Mental Health | Craig and Marc Kielburger

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