The World Health Organization is calling for a step change in the treatment of mental health disorders, saying existing care systems are largely ineffective and often abusive.
Nearly one billion people were living with a mental disorder in 2019. That number has risen, with new data showing conditions such as depression and anxiety increasing by more than 26% in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus.
The World Health Organization recently released its biggest review of mental health around the world since the turn of the century. The report reveals that 14%, or one in seven adolescents, suffers from a mental disorder. It indicates that suicides represent one in 100 deaths, of which 58% occur before the age of 50.
The head of the WHO’s mental health unit, Mark Van Ommeren, says mental disorders are the leading cause of disability. He says depression and anxiety alone cost the global economy nearly $1 trillion a year in lost productivity. Despite the huge socio-economic consequences, he says many people with mental health issues do not seek help for a variety of reasons.
“They fear that the stigma associated with seeking help is one of the reasons. Another reason may be that they don’t trust the services available because there hasn’t been enough investment in them,” Van Ommeren said. “Third, they may not recognize the problem because they don’t know enough about mental health issues. limit.”
According to the WHO, only a small fraction of people in need have access to effective, affordable and quality mental health care. He says the gap between developed and developing countries is huge, noting that 70% of people with psychosis are treated in rich countries, compared to 12% in poor countries.
Van Ommeren says the current mental health care system is broken and needs to change. He says governments invest about two out of every three dollars for mental health in large prison psychiatric hospitals. He says the money would be better spent in community mental health facilities because they are more accessible.
“It’s less likely that there will be human rights abuses…the atmosphere in big hospitals easily becomes that hospitals are storing people with very serious problems,” Van Ommeren said. “In community settings with open doors this is much less likely. Also in community settings many more people can easily be treated. The hospital is so stigmatized that many people would never seek treatment there. care.
WHO says countries can provide better and more affordable treatment by strengthening community health services. It recommends integrating treatment into primary health care, schools and prisons. He says mental health should be covered by insurance plans.