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Insufficient mental health care reaching alarming levels, says WHO

Mental health is equally important as physical health as both are connected, imposing cascading effects on one another’s functioning. But mental health is not given enough attention, and the impact is reaching alarming leves. said a World Health Organization report.


Photo Credit: Andrew Mason

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its Mental Health Atlas 2014 yesterday revealing that almost 1 in 10 people suffer from mental health disorder but only one percent of global health workforce is employed in this department, which means almost half of the world’s population thrive in a situation where there is less than 1 mental health doctor per 100,000 people.

The WHO report added that on an average there is less than one neuro doctor per 10 000 people across the world. Countries that fall under low and middle income category have less than 1 mental health doctor per 100,000 people, while the countries that fall under the high-income category have 1 mental health doctor per 2,000 people.

The report declared that around the world, the expenditure on mental health continues to be poor with low and middle-income nations spending less than $2 per capita per year while the high-income nations spending more than $50 for the same.

Although, majority of the expenditure goes to mental hospitals, low and middle-income nations still have lack of enough hospital beds with 42 beds and 142 admissions per 100 000 population. In comparison to them, high-income nations have considerably a higher number of hospital beds and admission records.

Dr. Shekhar Saxena, who is the Director of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, told media recently that the resources focused to mental health, both financial and human, “remain extremely small all over the world.”

The WHO report stated that since 2011, the number of nurses employed in mental health has risen by 35 percent; however a significant dearth still persists in all orders, specifically in low and middle income nations.

The report further added that although many countries across the world are preparing policies, plans, and laws for mental health; most of those don’t go with the international human rights, imposition is poor and families of the affected person, including the person himself are not strongly engaged with the curing process.

Two-thirds of nations have a policy or plan for mental health care while half have an exclusive mental health law.

In 2013 WHO introduced a Comprehensive mental health action plan 2010-2013. The plan had four goals – toughening leadership and governance for mental health, offering comprehensive mental health and social care services in community-based environments, imposing strategies to encourage and prevent mental health issues, and toughening information systems, verification and research.

The report added that training of primary care staff in mental health is essential to developing capacity for recognizing and treating persons with acute and common mental disorders.

On Tuesday, WHO said both rich and poor nations should equally endow in mental health care, particularly during financial crisis because the rates of depressions and suicide tend to go up during the period.

Saxena stated that the depression and suicide rates actually increases significantly for nations that suffer from economic issues. “These are precious loss of life which a country should protect by maintaining the mental health care that is due to these people during these times of stress,” he added.

He further told PTI that owing to its prevalence in India, “we need about ten times as many specialists as we have now. So in spite of the availability of money, the progress is very slow.”

According to WHO, as many as 450 million people suffer from mental disorders with almost 1 million, ending their lives every year. Four of the leading mental disorders that people live with are alcoholism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, said the report.

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