Dr Peter Singer, of Grand Challenges Canada
With nearly 450 million people having mental health disorders and more than three-quarters living in developing countries, experts around the globe are calling for a joint effort to tackle the world’s leading cause of suffering and disability, mental health disorders.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), eight in every 10 of those living in developing nations receive no treatment at all, majority arising from the survivors of infectious diseases, natural disasters and war.
In some African countries, most families have lost one or more member during conflicts, while it’s estimated that about half of over 15 years of age in such countries have mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
With poor mental healthcare system, almost half of the world’s population lives in a country where, on average, there is one psychiatrist or fewer to serve 200,000 people. There is very little funding for mental health innovations in low- and middle-income countries, where mental illness is the most neglected of many neglected diseases”
WHO also observed that many low-income countries have less than one mental health specialist per one million population, but In Nigeria, a quarter of patients seen in local health centres have significant depression symptoms yet few are diagnosed and only one in six of those who are diagnosed get treatment of any kind.
In May 2012, health ministers from the member states of the World Health Assembly agreed to a resolution on mental health, making a commitment to promote greater awareness of mental health issues and improve care standards around the world. A global mental health action plan is now being drawn up, as the Canadian government has said it will give nearly $20m (£12.5m) to support 15 new projects designed to improve mental health diagnosis and care in developing countries.
The projects, will tackle issues that can lead to mental illness, such as alcohol and substance abuse, as well as delivering solutions like counselling and health promotion.
One project will use mobile phones to deliver instant and accessible support to Nigerian women suffering from postnatal depression. Another will use local health networks and telemedicine to help some countries with mental health conditions.
Dr Peter Singer, of Grand Challenges Canada, said: “There is very little funding for mental health innovations in low- and middle-income countries, where mental illness is the most neglected of many neglected diseases.