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Lord Blunkett urges more action on disability and mental health in world’s poorest places

Posted on: Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett,  who became the UK’s first blind Cabinet Minister,  has highlighted the challenges faced by disabled people in developing countries. Speaking at a reception at the House of Lords on 1st November, which he hosted on behalf of  CBM, Lord Blunkett explained how he had witnessed first-hand, some of the challenges faced by children with disabilities in East Africa:

“I was struck by the challenge of getting a child to school, let alone to healthcare, let alone medical treatment or to overcome some of the challenges around disability. As well as the normal challenge of those in developing world to raise a family and earn a living – add to that isolation and attitudinal barriers that exclude blind and disabled people. It’s not surprising that mental health is an issue challenging all of us around the world”.

Lord Blunkett highlighted the need to improve access to mental health support for people in the poorest places of the world. He praised the work of campaigners like Norman Lamb MP, who attended the event, for their work on mental health, but pointed out that the scale of the global challenge is huge:

“If we know that mental health is a massive issue here in the UK, imagine the scale of the problem in developing countries…”

In addition, Lord Blunkett drew attention to those disabled men, women and children in conflict zones, displaced from their homes, and denied the absolute basics which give all of us hope for the future.

The reception brought together parliamentarians, CBM supporters and international development sector leaders to raise awareness of the exclusion faced by people with disabilities and, in particular, people living with psychosocial disabilities – those caused by mental health conditions.

80% of people with mental illness live in low- and middle-income countries where most receive little or no support. Mental health conditions such as depression are a leading cause of disability worldwide, often causing immense suffering and preventing people from earning a living and participating in all aspects of their community.

Adrian Sell, Kirsty Smith, Lord Blunkett and Norman Lamb MP standing in front of a CBM signCBM UK Chief Executive Kirsty Smith spoke about the many forms of exclusion experienced by people with disabilities, including barriers to accessing education, livelihoods and health care, and CBM’s commitment to breaking down these barriers and building a world where everyone can fulfil their potential. She welcomed the UK Government’s commitment to ensure that international aid reaches people with disabilities and to leave no one behind.

Adrian Sell, Chief Executive of global mental health NGO BasicNeeds, which recently became part of the CBM family, explained how CBM and BasicNeeds’ work over several years has helped people with mental health services to access the treatment and support that they need.

Images: Top – Lord Blunkett speaking. Bottom right: (l-r) Adrian Sell, Kirsty Smith, Lord Blunkett and Norman Lamb MP.