Mental health has always been a stigma, be it in a developed or under developed country. But in the last few years we as a society have become more aware of this burden which is affecting the young and the old alike and we realise that we still have a long way to go. The good news is countries can make a difference using existing knowledge and research and enhance investment in this area.
One in ten people worldwide has a mental health disorder, but only one percent of the global health workforce is treating such illnesses, which are still widely stigmatized, according to the United Nations Agency.
What countries are at higher risks?
The ones which face natural calamities or countries facing serious socio-economic challenges are at a higher risk. The rate of depression and suicides increase significantly in these countries.
What can be done?
Visibly increase the attention given to mental disorders at national and international levels. Strong leadership is needed to make mental health a priority, to commit to innovative and quality services, to channel resources toward mental health systems, and to strengthen community services.
Introduce or strengthen programs that promote and protect mental well-being in general health services (integrated care), school curricula (life skills), and occupational health schemes (wellness at work); and promote better coordination across these platforms and sectors.
Devote additional resources from development assistance donors and domestic health budgets towards implementing community-based mental-health programs and strengthening the overall treatment of mental disorders as part of the progressive realisation of universal health coverage.
Countries should set aside significant amount of national budgets allocated to developing adequate infrastructure and services for mental health. More human resources should be provided to take care of those with mental disorders and to protect and promote mental health. Countries, especially those with limited resources, need to establish specifically targeted policies, plans and initiatives to promote and support mental health.
Who needs to invest?
All of us with interest in the health and development of people and communities. This includes international organisations, development aid agencies, trusts/foundations, businesses and governments.
An investment of this magnitude should be able to provide the much-needed services, treatment and support to a larger proportion of the nearly 450 million people suffering with mental health disorders than they receive at present, services that are more effective and more humane, treatments that help them avoid chronic disability and premature death; and support that gives them a life that is healthier and richer – a life lived with dignity. We can also expect greater financial returns from increased productivity and lower net costs of illness and care, apart from savings in other sector outlays.
Managing emotions and maintaining emotional balance is an important skill. Check out our article on how to create a mentally and emotionally healthy life.
Overall, this investment will result in individuals and communities who are better able to avoid or cope with the stresses and conflicts that are part of everyday life, and who will therefore enjoy a better quality of life and better health.