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Presidential Blog

Our support for UN World Health Day aims

07 April 2017 | by Peter Kinderman

The British Psychological Society welcomes and endorses in the strongest terms the statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Mr. Dainius Pūras, on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The UN statement was issued to mark World Health Day 2017, which takes the rising global incidence of depression as its theme.

We are living in a world of astounding - and very welcome - scientific and professional developments, which give great hope in our joint struggles to improve the health and wellbeing of all citizens. But it is also important to recognise that health is also a matter of social justice. Inequalities, poverty and abuse all impact on our physical and mental health, and the solutions are political and social as well as technical.

Therefore we particularly welcome Mr Pūras’s recognition of the fact that depression, in particular, “.. is strongly linked to early childhood adversities, including toxic stress and sexual, physical and emotional child abuse, as well as to inequalities and violence, including gender based inequalities and gender based violence, and many other adverse conditions which people, especially those in vulnerable situations such as poverty or social exclusion, face when their basic needs are not met and their rights are not protected.”

We welcome this recognition from the United Nations Special Rapporteur, and wish to associate ourselves with his further comments that: “...a reductive neurobiological paradigm causes more harm than good, undermines the right to health, and must be abandoned…. There is a need of a shift in investments in mental health, from focusing on "chemical imbalances" to focusing on "power imbalances and inequalities.”

The British Psychological Society welcomes these positive messages for a global approach to health and psychological wellbeing. We agree with Mr Pūras that we need to focus on the primary prevention of suffering and ill-health, as well as the care for people ill or in distress. We therefore look forward to a future where we work together to provide a coherent, scientific, but humane and psychological vision; where we offer care rather than coercion, fight for social justice, equity and fundamental human rights, and to establish the social prerequisites for genuine mental health and wellbeing.

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