- A Global Call to Action launched today mobilises international efforts to save lives by increasing access to vaccines for people living with mental illness and substance use disorders
During National Mental Health Month, an international alliance consisting of scientists, experts in mental health, public health, community leaders, and those living with mental illness have today launched a Global Call to Action to improve vaccine equity for people living with mental illness and addiction use disorders.
The Global Call to Action, which is being led by Equally Well, an international group that promotes the physical health of people living with mental illness, aims to eliminate premature death due to vaccine-preventable conditions.
Professor of Management Russell Roberts in the Charles Sturt School of Business and National Director of Equally Well Australia said that COVID-19 has highlighted the lack of access to vaccines for preventable diseases for people living with mental illness and substance use disorders.
“People living with mental illness have been forgotten about during this pandemic when it comes to vaccine access,” Professor Roberts said.
“This adds to the discrimination they have experienced for decades concerning accessing vaccines for preventable diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis and hepatitis.
“Those living with mental illness have almost five times the rate of being hospitalised and four times the rate of premature death due to vaccine-preventable conditions.
“Proactively offering vaccination to people with serious mental illness would save $84 million in hospital costs each year in Australia.”
Professor Roberts said that systemic failures, diagnostic overshadowing (seeing only mental, not physical health issues), invisibility of carers, stigma and discrimination are all factors that contribute to global vaccine inequity.
The launch of the Global Call to Action follows a webinar last week, held by Charles Sturt University in conjunction with the National Equally Well Alliance, which brought together representatives from government, health professions, not-for-profit, and community sectors who offered their perspectives, experiences, and suggestions on how to improve access to vaccines for those living with mental illness.
The Global Call to Action Declaration was started in October 2021 by members of the International Equally Well Alliance.