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Leaving no one behind on world mental health day.

A group of disability activists in their village in rural Bangladesh

Leaving no one behind on world mental health day.

Global Summit on Mental Health.

On World Mental Health Day, the UK government in hosting its first Global Summit on Mental Health Culture Change, which brings together key thought leaders, government officials, stakeholders, policy makers and change agents. It is crucial that the voices of people with psychosocial disabilities living in poverty are heard in discussions that seek to improve the lives of people affected by mental health problems.

Unique vulnerabilities.

In low and middle-income countries, people with psychosocial disabilities often face extreme stigma and discrimination in their daily lives. They are often considered worthless and even subhuman, and as a result, experience high rates of physical, mental and sexual violence. Women with psychosocial disabilities often find themselves trapped by violent partners or family members because they are financially and socially dependent on them.

Frequently, people with psychosocial disabilities in developing countries are denied their right to exercise their political and civil rights and are shunned from public life. They are cut off from accessing vital health and social care services, and face disproportionate barriers in attending school and finding employment, which further feeds the poverty trap.

Leaving no one behind.

Despite the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals in bringing the world’s attention to the agenda of “leave no one behind,” people with mental disabilities are too often missed by current development programmes, and in some cases actively excluded from these programmes. Mental health is not just a health issue and cannot be considered in isolation from other areas of development, such as education, employment, humanitarian responses and human rights capacity building.

People with mental and psychosocial disabilities from the Global South must be given a seat at the table. National governments, with the support of the international community, must do more to invest in building the capacity of people with psychosocial disabilities to advocate for greater representation and participation in society in decisions that affect their lives. Our experience has shown that when disabled people are empowered, they are able to challenge stigma in their families and communities, to pursue their aspirations, speak up for injustices and hold powerholders to account to deliver on their promises.

If we are to achieve meaningful outcomes from the Summit in London, then we must hold the space for the unique issues faced by disabled people living in poverty and ensure that the overriding spirit of discussions is one of inclusion.