Mental health issues are growing and present a worldwide problem. Yet, when it comes to mental health, all countries are developing countries.
“There is no health without mental health”. WHO has been saying this for a decade. The numbers, however, show that when it comes to mental health, all countries can do better. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), more than 75% of people with mental disorders receive no treatment at all for their disorder. In high-income countries, the population tends to be suspicious and disinterested in mental health care.
However, mental health diseases exists and they are penalizing
Highlighting of certain mental disorders and problems
Aside from the human cost, mental illness has a significant impact on the global economy. The World Health Organization estimates that the most common mental health illnesses – depression and anxiety – costs$1 trillion every year. Despite these findings, the global median of government health expenditure is less than 2%.
According to the Lancet Commission, LMICs should increase their mental health allocation to at least 5%, and high-income countries to at least 10% of the total health budget.
Since the last ten years, a number of initiatives and action plans have been set up. These initiatives and action plans are often initiated by WHO and carried out jointly with governments, associations, and other organizations.
This is notably the case with the “Comprehensive mental health action plan” (2013-2021), an initiative with a truly inspiring vision: “A world in which mental health is valued, promoted and protected, mental health disorders are prevented.People affected are able to exercise all human rights and access quality, culturally appropriate health care and social services. Care in a timely manner to support their recovery. All in order to achieve the highest possible level of health and to participate fully in society and work, free from stigma and discrimination”. This initiative was originally planned to last between 2013-2021 but has since been updated and extended to be efficient until 2030.
Alison Schafer, a Technical Specialist at WHO explains:
The first eight countries to join the initiative are Bangladesh, Jordan, Nepal, Paraguay, the Philippines, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe. Each country has already completed an initial evaluation to gain a comprehensive view of mental health needs, available services, scaling potential, and major challenges.
As a result, the WHO’s main focus for the special program is on expanding to the community and integrating mental health services in humanitarian circumstances.
The Lancet Commission recommends for its part, the « urgent need to integrate mental health services into primary care as part of universal health coverage under other programmes ».
Digital as a new weapon?
What if new technologies could be used to help people? In a report on global mental health and sustainable development, the Lancet Commission proposes this idea. According to an analysis of 49 digital technology intervention studies from over 20 LMICs, five distinct functions for these technologies:
Digital technologies can can help to educate the public and disseminate informations concerning common mental diseases.
Digital tools can facilitate the screening and diagnosis of mental disorders.
Technology can help in the treatment and care of those suffering from mental illnesses.
Through digital learning and supervision platforms, digital technology can enable successful training and supervision of non-specialist health workers.
Technology can support attempts to enhance mental health at the health-care system level.
To summarize, these international assistance initiatives and programs are valuable and essential, but the beginning of great change also begins at home, with us. As a last resort, change starts with each and every one of us understanding that people with mental health conditions are not people to be not people to fear or distance ourselves from.
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