10 October marks World Mental Health Day, a global event which aims to raise awareness about mental health conditions.
The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) has set this year’s theme under the title “Mental Health in an Unequal World”.
The aim of the theme for this year’s event is to highlight the lack of access to adequate mental health services that are experienced by people of a less privileged background.
According to the WFMH, between 75% and 95% of people with mental health disorders that are living in low- and middle-income countries, have no access to mental health services. However, issues of access also occur in wealthier countries albeit at a lower rate.
Stigma remains to be a big concern and, often, people with mental illness do not receive the treatment they are entitled to due to the stigma and discrimination they experience together with their families or caregivers.
Stigma not only affects the individual’s physical and mental health, but can also impact their educational opportunities, as well as their job prospects and career. This vicious cycle ensures that the gap between lower income and higher income families, when it comes to their access to quality care, grows even wider.
Even when mental health disorders are identified, research has shown that, particularly in lower- and middle-income countries, there is a deficiency in the quality of care that is provided to people with a mental health problem. This is sometimes so extreme that it can take up to 15 years in some cases for the appropriate and recommended intervention to be delivered to the patient.
Covid-19 has further exacerbated the effects of inequality on health outcomes.
Job losses, job insecurity, physical distancing and social isolation have affected people of all ages in various ways and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken. The WFMH’s focus on unequal access to mental health services for this year’s campaign will help shed light on the issues that perpetuate mental health inequality on a global level.
In order to help spread awareness on the importance and overall global burden, here are 5 facts about mental health that everyone should know:
- The World Health Organization estimates that one in four people worldwide will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point of their lives. Currently, there are approximately 280 million people currently affected by these conditions in the world, most of which will go undiagnosed.
- Depression is the leading cause of disability globally, according to the WHO, and remains to be a major contributor to the global burden of disease. Depression has been long linked to a drop in energy levels and productivity, changes in appetite and sleeping patterns, substance abuse and feelings of worthlessness.
- Studies have shown that half of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24. Despite this, most cases go undetected and untreated. Depression is the third leading cause of disease among adolescents, and suicide is the currently the leading cause of death among the 15–29-year-old age group.
- Findings from a UK-based research study that was aimed at exploring the genetic links to anxiety and depression revealed that genetics accounts for approximately 30-40% of the risk for both depression and anxiety, and 60-70% of the risk is due to environmental factors. However, it is important to remember that mental disorders are the result of both hereditary factors as well as environmental factors and there is no single genetic “switch” that can “turn on” a mental disorder. This makes it difficult for doctors to determine people’s risks of either inheriting such disorders or passing them on to their children.
- Mental health disorders are rising faster among 18–25-year old’s than the total adult population. Therefore, addressing youth mental health issues is extremely important. With good mental health, these young adults are more likely to develop resilience and getting timely, appropriate care will undoubtedly help them grow into healthy, well-rounded, productive members of society in the future.
Maha El Akoum, MPH, is a public health professional currently working as Head of Content at World Innovation Summit for Health [WISH].
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