WHO Promotes Mental Health Throughout the World
WHO: World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “the state of complete mental, physical and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” It defines mental health as “a state of well being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Part of WHO’s mission in the area of mental health is to promote mental health and to reduce the burden of mental disorders throughout the world. In order to meet its responsibility to promote mental health throughout the world, WHO developed Project Atlas in 2000. The purpose of the project was to develop an atlas of data and information about mental health resources throughout the world. The first atlas was published in October 2001 and updated in 2005. The atlas has been updated again, and is known as the Mental Health Atlas 2011. It contains data about 95% of the world’s population from 184 WHO Member States.
WHO has identified that there is a significant gap between the burden caused by mental disorders and the resources available to prevent and treat them. WHO estimates that 80% of people with serious mental disorders living in low and middle income countries do not receive the mental health services they need.
In most countries, less than 2% of health funds are spent on mental health, while mental health treatment is relatively inexpensive; not requiring expensive medical equipment and procedures. Spending on mental health is less than 2 US dollars per person per year, and less than 25 cents in low income countries. In most countries, there is one psychiatrist available to treat 200,000 people or more.
Higher income countries are more likely to have outpatient treatments available for mental health conditions. In lower income countries, most treatment is provided in inpatient psychiatric hospitals. Hospital stays are often a year or longer, and quality of care is often very poor. Many inpatient facilities do not offer outpatient follow up services or provide psychosocial interventions that can reduce severity and recurrence of symptoms, and help patients function within their communities. Approximately 80% of the mental health budget in developing countries is spent on 7% of patients. The majority of people with mental disorders can be successfully treated in the community on an outpatient basis.
WHO recommends an increase in funding for mental health conditions and a re-allocation of funds away from inpatient care toward outpatient community care. About 80% of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders living in developing countries do not receive any treatment or care. This includes 95 million people with depression and more than 25 million people with epilepsy. These conditions are very easily and affordably treated and can improve quality of life significantly when treated. They can have devastating effects when not treated, and cause unnecessary suffering to individuals and their families. 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lives.
Worldwide, WHO estimates that 151 million people suffer from depression, 26 million from schizophrenia; 125 million from alcohol use disorders, 40 million from epilepsy, and 24 million from Alzheimer and other dementias. Approximately 844 thousand people die by suicide each year.
People with mental health conditions are vulnerable. They are often neglected and are often victims of violence and crime. In many communities they are judged as having weak character and punished for immoral behavior. They are often feared and shunned. Sometimes they are thought of as demon possessed and subjected to harmful religious rituals. Their human rights are often violated. They are most often forgotten and overlooked, and do not receive protections afforded to other vulnerable groups.
A number of social, psychological and biological factors contribute to our mental health. Poverty and lack of education are mental health risk factors. Poor mental health is also associated with social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyles, violence, physical health problems and human rights violations. Some psychological and personality features contribute to mental health risk, as do biological factors such as genetics, hormones and brain chemistry.
Promoting positive mental health involves creating positive living conditions and environments that allow people to develop and maintain healthy lifestyles. An environment that respects and protects basic human rights has the highest chance of promoting high levels of positive mental health and well being. The security and increased freedom provided in these environments promotes positive mental health.
- WHO | World Mental Health Day - October 10, 2011
World Mental Health Day raises public awareness about mental health issues. The day promotes open discussion of mental disorders, and investments in prevention, promotion and treatment services. The treatment gap for mental, neurological and substanc
- World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH)
An international membership organization to advance the prevention of mental and emotional disorders and the promotion of mental health
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