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The European WHO mental health programme and the World Health Report 2001: input and implications

  • Wolfgang Rutz (a1)
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When the mental health programme of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe was ‘resurrected’ in 1999, a review of the situation in the European Region of the WHO provided a surprisingly diverse picture. In this Region, which stretches from Greenland to Malta, from Ireland to Kamchatka, dramatic differences were noted in life expectancy and suicidality, income, housing, employment and social cohesion, as well as services, social support, human rights and the accessibility of basic care. In many societies, stigma and discrimination effectively excluded the mentally vulnerable from society and its basic services. Stigmatisation also hindered early intervention, rehabilitation and reintegration into society (WHO Regional Office for Europe, 1999, 2001).

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References
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Dawson, A. & Tylee, A. (eds) (2001)Depression: Social and Economic Time Bomb. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe.
Rutz, W. (2001) Mental health in Europe: problems, advances and challenges. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 104 (suppl. 410), 1520.
Wilkinson, R. & Marmot, M. (eds) (1998)Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe.
World Health Organization (2001)World Health Report 2001. Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope. Geneva: World Health Organization.
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World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (1999)WHO/EURO Multicentre study on Parasuicide: Facts and Figures (2nd edn). Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe.
World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (2001)Mental Health in Europe – Stop Exclusion, Dare to Care. World Mental Health Day. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe.
World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (2002)The European Health Report 2002. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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The European WHO mental health programme and the World Health Report 2001: input and implications

  • Wolfgang Rutz (a1)
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eLetters

Our Future?

Woody Caan, Professor of Public Health
14 August 2003

Across Europe, Rutz (2003) reported “stigma and discrimination effectively excluded the mentally vulnerable from society and its basic services”, and “vulnerability seemed related to factors such as a sense ofcoherence and meaning in life, social connectedness, significance and family cohesion as well as factors related to helplessness and inner control”. An unexpected challenge has arisen for British psychiatry, in the 50th anniversary year of the discovery of the Double Helix, coming from the Government’s wish to capitalise on the sexy areas of science. InJuly, medical directors were sent their Bulletin with this official imperative:

“genetics will become increasingly relevant to virtually all clinicalareas and across primary, secondary and tertiary care” (Medical Directors Bulletin, 2003).

Doctors were directed to a White Paper on Our Inheritance, Our Future(Secretary of State for Health, 2003). This mentions engaging with conditions such as schizophrenia, and that the new Wales Gene Park in Cardiff will lead research on psychiatric disorders. A very few parts of the White Paper take a cautious view, such as “there are currently no practical applications of research into behavioural genetics” (Section 6.50). However, searching the Department of Health’s National Research Register as of 20 June 2003 using the terms PSYCHIATRY and GENETICS disclosed 41 current projects within the health service, including areas like genomics of behaviours and genes associated with behavioural disorders. Cui bono ? The social impact of such research, including the exacerbation of inequalities (Caan, 2002), has not been debated within thewider mental health community.

Two key public Consultations are in progress. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (2003) is currently inquiring into mental health andsocial exclusion. The White Paper on Our Future (ibid) delegates the Human Genetics Commission and the National Screening Committee to:

“conduct an initial analysis of the ethical, social, scientific, economic, and practical considerations of genetic profiling at birth and to report by the end of 2004” (Section 3.38).

Readers of BJP may wish to express their views electronically to Geneticswhitepaper@doh.gsi.gov.uk

REFERENCESCaan, W. (2002) Inequalities and research need to be balanced. BMJ, 324, 51-52.Medical Directors Bulletin (2003) Genetics strategy. July e-bulletin http://www.doh.gov.uk/meddirbulletin/mdbulletin23.htmOffice of the Deputy Prime Minister (2003) Mental Health and Social Exclusion. London: Social Exclusion Unit.Rutz, W. (2003) The European WHO mental health programme and the World Health Report 2001: input and implications. British Journal of Psychiatry,183, 73-74.Secretary of State for Health (2003) Our Inheritance, Our Future. Realising the potential of genetics in the NHS. London: Department of Health.

DECLARATION OF INTERESTAPU is a partner with NIMHE Eastern in the Social Inclusion Fellowship programme.
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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