The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that nearly one billion people worldwide suffer from some form of mental disorder.
The latest report is the largest review of world mental health since the turn of the century.
The figure revealed in the report is staggering but is even more worrying if you consider that it includes around one in seven teenagers. The detailed work provides a blueprint for governments, academics, health professionals, civil society and others with an ambition to support the world in transforming mental health.
“In 2019, nearly a billion people – including 14% of the world’s adolescents – were living with a mental disorder. Suicide accounted for more than 1 in 100 deaths and 58% of suicides occurred before age 50. Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability, causing one in six years lived with disability. People with severe mental health conditions die on average 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population, mostly due to preventable physical diseases,” the WHO report said.
The report said childhood sexual abuse and bullying victimization are major causes of depression. “Social and economic inequalities, public health emergencies, war, and the climate crisis are among the global, structural threats to mental health. Depression and anxiety went up by more than 25% in the first year of the pandemic alone.”
Stigma, discrimination and human rights violations against people with mental health conditions are widespread in communities and care systems everywhere; 20 countries still criminalize attempted suicide. Across countries, it is the poorest and most disadvantaged in society who are at greatest risk of mental ill-health and who are also the least likely to receive adequate services.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, just a small fraction of people in need had access to effective, affordable and quality mental health care, the report said.
“For example, 71% of those with psychosis worldwide do not receive mental health services. While 70% of people with psychosis are reported to be treated in high-income countries, only 12% of people with psychosis receive mental health care in low-income countries. For depression, the gaps in service coverage are wide across all countries: even in high-income countries, only one third of people with depression receive formal mental health care and minimally-adequate treatment for depression is estimated to range from 23% in high-income countries to 3% in low- and lower-middle-income countries,” the report said.
Drawing on the latest evidence available, WHO’s comprehensive report calls on all stakeholders to work together to deepen the value and commitment given to mental health, reshape the environments that influence mental health and strengthen the systems that care for people’s mental health.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Everyone’s life touches someone with a mental health condition. Good mental health translates to good physical health and this new report makes a compelling case for change. The inextricable links between mental health and public health, human rights and socioeconomic development mean that transforming policy and practice in mental health can deliver real, substantive benefits for individuals, communities and countries everywhere. Investment into mental health is an investment into a better life and future for all.”
All 194 WHO Member States have signed up to the Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013-2030, which commits them to global targets for transforming mental health.
The WHO said that pockets of progress achieved over the past decade prove that change is possible. “But change is not happening fast enough, and the story of mental health remains one of need and neglect with 2 out of 3 dollars of scarce government spending on mental health allocated to stand-alone psychiatric hospitals rather than community-based mental health services where people are best served.”
The report urges all countries to accelerate their implementation of the Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013-2030.By Rabiu Tajudeen