World Mental Health

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Mental health is a global issue as mental health problems and disorders are common in all countries of the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2002 and recent reports:

•    154 million people across the world suffer from depression
•    25 million suffer from Schizophrenia
•    91 million are affected by alcohol abuse
•    15 million are affected by drug abuse
•    50 million suffer from epilepsy
•    24 million suffer from dementia
•    Around 877,000 people commit suicide each year

These figures are staggering and go to show the extent of mental health problems in the world today. One of the biggest barriers to treating mental health problems on a global level is the lack of recognition about the seriousness of mental illness and lack of understanding as to how treatment can help.

Indeed, most organisations and members of the public make a clear distinction between physical and mental health and as such, some countries devote as little as 1 percent of their expenditure on health specifically to the treatment of mental health. This is tragic.

Facts about Mental Health

The WHO is a valuable source of information about world mental health and here are just some of the facts they have revealed about mental health on a global level.

Around 20 percent of children and young people in the world have a mental health problem and yet most low and middle income countries have just one child psychiatrist for every 1 to 4 million people

Stigma surrounding mental health problems and discrimination against people and families with mental health problems prevents people from seeking help. In South Africa, a survey revealed that most people believed mental illness was related to stress or lack of willpower and stigma was greater in urban areas and in people with a higher level of education.

Eighty six percent of suicides occur in low and middle income countries with more than fifty percent aged between 15 and 44. The highest suicide rates are in men from Eastern European countries.

In most countries there are human rights violations of people will mental health disorders which include denial of basic needs and privacy, physical restraint and seclusion. Few countries have adequate legislation in place to protect the rights of people with mental health disorders.

Tacking Human Rights Violations in people with mental health disorders

First and foremost it is necessary to change the attitude towards mental health and raise awareness of mental health and the issues surrounding mental health on a global level. Only then will human rights in mental health facilities improve, legislation be put in place to protect people with mental health problems and countries will be willing to invest more in the mental health of the people.

The World Health Organisation has initiated a mental health global action programme (mhGAP) in order to help countries combat stigma and improve mental health care in general.

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