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Nearly One Billion People Have a Mental Disorder, WHO Reports

Even before COVID-19 hit, only a small fraction of people in need of help had access to effective, affordable and quality mental health treatment.

Nearly one billion people worldwide suffer from some form of mental disorder, according to latest UN data – a staggering figure that is even more worrying, if you consider that it includes around one in seven teenagers.

To make matters worse, in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of common conditions such as depression and anxiety, went up by more than 25 percent, the UN health agency (WHO) said on Friday.

In its largest review of mental health since the turn of the century, the World Health Organization has urged more countries to get to grips with worsening conditions.

It has offered examples of good practice that should be implemented as quickly as possible, in recognition of the important role that mental health plays in positive and sustainable development, at all levels.

“Everyone’s life touches someone with a mental health condition,” said WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “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.”

Even before COVID-19 hit, only a small fraction of people in need of help had access to effective, affordable and quality mental health treatment, WHO said, citing latest available global data from 2019.

For example, more than 70 percent of those suffering from psychosis worldwide do not get the help they need, the UN agency said.

The gap between rich and poor nations highlights unequal access to healthcare, as seven in 10 people with psychosis receive treatment in high-income countries, compared to only 12 percent in low-income countries.

The situation is more dramatic for cases of depression, WHO said, pointing to gaps in assistance across all countries – including high-income ones – where only one third of people who suffer from depression receive formal mental health care.

And although high-income countries offer “minimally-adequate” treatment for depression in 23 percent of cases, this drops to just three per cent in low and lower middle-income countries.

“We need to transform our attitudes, actions and approaches to promote and protect mental health, and to provide and care for those in need,” said WHO’s Tedros. “We can and should do this by transforming the environments that influence our mental health and by developing community-based mental health services capable of achieving universal health coverage for mental health.”

Read more at the United Nations

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