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Autism Speaks to help guide new commission on global mental health

International commission will develop practical strategies to address neglect of people with autism and other mental health conditions
March 18, 2016

A leading medical journal has launched an international commission to develop community solutions and public policy guidelines to remedy the persistent neglect of people with mental health issues including autism.

The Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health will be chaired by pioneering autism researcher and mental health champion Vikram Patel and psychiatrist Shekhar Saxena, who heads mental health programs at the World Health Organization (WHO).

The commission will be guided by a stakeholder advisory group that includes Andy Shih, Autism Speaks’ senior vice president for scientific affairs. Dr. Shih leads Autism Speaks’ Global Autism Public Health program.

“Many of our families at home and abroad still face blatant discrimination and poor health because of a continuing lack of understanding and access to effective services,” Dr. Shih says. “More can and must be done.”

The commission’s goals include developing practical, affordable and culturally sensitive methods for identifying and serving children and adults with autism and other mental health conditions in communities around the world. The commission will also provide guidance on establishing and safeguarding basic human rights for those with such conditions – rights such as inclusion in society, access to education and health care, and opportunities for employment. 

“Our goals are ambitious,” the commission leaders write in this week’s Lancet. “We seek to reframe the burden of mental health problems and the value of mental health to society, emphasize the importance of early intervention and show how the societal, ethical and financial barriers to implementation can be addressed.”

The commission will finalize its recommendations in a report to be published on World Mental Health Day (Oct. 20) 2017.

“Autism Speaks looks forward to supporting this important initiative,” Dr. Shih adds. “The recommendations will help influence and guide community, national and global leaders to address the inequality and health disparities often faced by individuals and families affected by autism and other developmental disabilities in the United States and worldwide."

Learn more about Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health program here.