PRMS Supports UN NGO Committee Promoting Mental Health Advocacy

PRMS Supports UN NGO Committee Promoting Mental Health Advocacy

There’s no complete picture of health without mental health. But while public health organizations address the threat of COVID-19 and other disease threats, a passionate group of volunteer psychiatrists in consultation with the United Nations (UN) is focused on mental health issues across the globe.

Over the past four years, PRMS is pleased to have supported the United Nations Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Committee on Mental Health Inc. – a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Under the auspices of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organization (CONGO) in Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the NGO Committee on Mental Health engages in activities that promote, educate, facilitate, and support actions in the international arena and within the scope of the United Nations interests and responsibilities. It advocates the 193 nations of the UN General Assembly and international agencies to include mental health in the global health agenda. The Committee, in addition to trying to improve mental health care services and to lobby for the prevention and treatment of mental illness, works to ensure that mental health issues are at the forefront as the UN addresses critical concerns such as disease, vulnerable populations, human rights, poverty, violence, the environment, peace, and wellbeing.

“Although unfortunately not on everybody’s top list of priorities, mental health is all encompassing, and we want to make sure that the United Nations includes mental health in its development goals as they move forward,” said Corresponding Secretary Felix Torres, MD, MBA, DFAPA, Chief of Forensic Medicine at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and candidate for Minority/Underrepresented Representative Trustee in the upcoming American Psychiatric Association (APA) election. Dr. Torres has served on the Committee since 2013 and is one of five psychiatrists who act as Special Advisors to the APA on the UN, tracking issues at the UN that are relevant to the work of the APA.

PRMS joined the NGO Committee on Mental Health as a member four years ago. “We applaud the passionate psychiatric professionals who are working diligently as part of the NGO Committee on Mental Health to unite and empower communities to keep mental health on the global agenda, said Tonya Davies, Head of PRMS. “PRMS is proud to support this very important initiative and recognizes how particularly crucial this work is now as the world faces a global pandemic.”

The Committee’s Immediate Past Chair, Vivian B. Pender, MD, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical College and Training Psychoanalyst at Columbia University, is also a Distinguished Lifetime APA Fellow and APA President-Elect. In a 2013 interview with Psychiatric News, Dr. Pender noted that the UN has about 100 agencies, programs, funds, commissions, and entities, such as the World Bank and the World Health Organization, not to mention thousands of NGOs that interface with it.

“As professionals, we have tools that we can offer [the UN], but we can’t tell them what to do,” Dr. Pender said in the Psychiatric News interview. “We can suggest, inform, raise their sensitivity, and sometimes ‘name and shame,’ but the most crucial thing is that we maintain a relationship with them. It requires diplomacy.”

Program meetings convened by one of the Committee’s Working Groups are typically held on the second Thursday of every month and include panel presentations by mental health professionals, advocates, and UN member state representatives.

“In the COVID-19 era, and after some growing pains, we have been able to move our Executive Council and monthly program meetings to the virtual space,” stated Dr. Torres. “This has significantly broadened our reach to a more worldwide audience of like-minded individuals with the goal of advancing our mission: promoting psychosocial well-being, the improvement of mental health care services, advocacy and education in the prevention of mental illness, and advocating for all individuals to have the right to realize their full potential for optimal functioning, both physically and mentally.”

Interested in becoming a member of the NGO Committee on Mental Health? There are four membership types with different annual dues:

Regular Membership: $50

Associate Membership: $35

Student Membership: $0 (student status verification required)

Member Organizations: $100

Regular memberships are open to representatives of NGOs in consultative status with the UN ECOSOC. Associate memberships are open to members of NGOs associated with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) and other “interested organizations and individuals.”

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