Nearly one billion people across the globe living with mental disorders: WHO

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Rajeev Choudhury

Nearly one billion people across the globe are living with some form of mental disorder, the data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) show.

The situation becomes even more worrying when one considers the prevalence of mental disorders among teenagers which stands around 14% or one in seven.

Releasing the staggering numbers recently in its largest review of mental health since the turn of the century, the UN health agency has asked the countries to take charge of the worsening condition.

The data further reveals that death by suicide accounted for almost one per cent of the total deaths across the globe in 2019 and 58% of suicides occurred before the age of 50.

Noting that social and economic inequalities, public health emergencies, war, and the climate crisis are among the global, structural threats to mental health, the WHO said that though some progress has been achieved in the past decade in meeting the target for transforming mental health, the change is not happening fast enough, and the story of mental health still remains one of need and neglect.

Pointing out that more than two-thirds of the scarce government spending on mental health is currently allocated to stand-alone psychiatric hospitals rather than community-based mental health services where people are best served, the WHO urged all countries to accelerate their implementation of the comprehensive mental health action plan 2013–2030.

Stressing that everyone’s life touches someone with a mental health condition, the WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Good mental health translates to good physical health and this new report makes a compelling case for change.”

The fact that seven in 10 people with psychosis receive treatment in high-income countries, compared to only 12 per cent in low-income countries, highlights once again the unequal access to healthcare gap between rich and poor nations, WHO said.

The situation is more acute for cases of depression, the second most prevalent mental disorder where gaps in assistance across all countries persist, the WHO report noted.

Even in the high-income countries just about a third of the patients with depression receive some form of formal healthcare only 23% of the cases receive “minimally adequate” treatment for depression. The corresponding figure in the low and lower-middle-income countries is just three per cent, WHO said.

“The inextricable links between mental health and public health, human rights and socio-economic development mean that transforming policy and practice in mental health can deliver real, substantive benefits for individuals, communities and countries everywhere,” the WHO DG said.




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