WHO commits to supporting MoH to provide comprehensive and quality mental health and psychosocial services to Timorese people

WHO commits to supporting MoH to provide comprehensive and quality mental health and psychosocial services to Timorese people

Photo WHO

DILI, 11 october 2023 (TATOLI) – Arvind Mathur, WHO Representative to Timor-Leste, said WHO is committed to supporting the Ministry of Health and collaborating with other partners to provide comprehensive and quality mental health and psychosocial services to the Timorese people.

He said that the WHO has been supporting Timor-Leste with training in mental health and psychosocial support to build the capacity of health professionals in order to ensure comprehensive and quality mental health and psychosocial services to the people.

“Frontline staff, including doctors and nurses, have been trained in Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, playing a vital role in identifying signs of mental distress. Awareness materials have been developed and adapted to the Tetum language to promote mental health awareness within communities,” Mathur said in a statement on the occasion of the World Mental Health Day.

Despite these efforts, Mathur said several challenges remain: “The lack of data, resources, and comprehensive mental health plans that comply with human rights principles hinder progress. Timor-Leste, with only two psychiatrists for the entire country, urgently needs capacity building and human resource development to improve service delivery.”

“But there is hope. In september 2022, Health Ministers from WHO Southeast Asia Region Member States, including Timor-Leste, signed the Paro Declaration, affirming their commitment to universal access to people-centered mental health care and services,” he said.

Mathur stressed that in order for Timor-Leste to move forward, it is important to review the mental health strategic plan, set realistic goals, and prioritize data collection to better understand the burden of mental health conditions: “Capacity building and resource allocation must continue, and awareness about mental health should remain a top priority.”

“Often, our families, friends, and colleagues suffer in silence due to the stigma and discrimination attached to mental health issues. Our homes must become safe spaces that allow conversations around mental health. Workplaces must strive to create a supportive and inclusive environment where such conversations and nurtured and encouraged. This can happen only with awareness. I therefore call upon everyone to join hands in normalizing conversations around mental health and breaking the silence,” said Mathur. “Mental health is a universal human right, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that everyone can access the care and support they need. Let us work together to achieve the goal of health for all and mental health for all, not just on World Mental Health Day but every day.”

One billion people globally, or one in every eight people live with a mental health condition. Depression ranks among the leading causes of disability, and suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. Despite these concerning statistics, mental health has often been a neglected aspect of healthcare worldwide, especially in the developing nations.

According to Mathur, in Timor-Leste, the burden of mental health conditions is likely substantial, though robust, comprehensive data is lacking: “The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this burden. Preliminary data from the psychiatric department of the HNGV hospital in Dili in 2020 paints a concerning picture, with significant percentages of patients presenting with schizophrenia (29%), depression (18%), and suicidal tendencies (18%). Similar trends are observed nationally. Past surveys conducted in schools have also found high prevalence of suicidal ideation among children, which is extremely concerning. These figures only scratch the surface of the true extent of mental health challenges in the country.”

Mathur said mental health is a basic human right for all people, saying everyone, whoever and wherever they are, has a right to the highest attainable standard of mental health.

“On this World Mental Health Day, we are reminded of the profound truth that there is no health without mental health. The World Health Organization (WHO) has aptly defined mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” This definition emphasizes that mental health is a fundamental human right that must be upheld for all, and this year’s Mental Health Day theme- ‘mental health is a universal human right’ – acts as a timely reminder for us,” he said.

This year’s theme: “Mental health is a universal human right” is an opportunity to improve knowledge, raise awareness, and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health as a universal human right.


Journalist: José Belarmino De Sá

Editor: Filomeno Martins


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