Mental Health Services 50 Times Less Accessible In Poorer Countries, WHO Report Finds

Being able to access relevant help and support is vital for anyone who has a mental health condition, but a new report highlights that around the world, this isn't always possible.

According to the WHO's newly released Mental Health Atlas 2014, almost one in 10 people suffer from a mental health condition, but just 1% of global health workers are working as psychiatrists, occupational therapists or social workers.

The report also highlights that those in the poorest countries are least likely to be able to access support.

The WHO's statistics suggest that in the world’s poorest countries, there is less than one mental health worker for every 100,000 people.

In countries defined as wealthy, there is thought to be an average of 52.3 mental health workers for every 100,000 people.

Countries with a gross national income per capita (GNI) of $1,045 (£668) or less are defined as low income while countries with a GNI of more than $12,736 are defined as high income under the WHO's guidelines.

Dr Shekhar Saxena, director of the WHO’s department of mental health and substance abuse, told The Guardian: "The gap is very large and it’s the reason for the neglect of mental health in low and middle income countries, which should be unacceptable.

"The prevalence of most severe mental illnesses – for example psychosis, bipolar disorder, severe depression – they are more or less the same across the world, so it would not be true to say that developed countries have a higher burden."

He goes on to suggest that natural disasters such as typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and conflicts such as the ongoing conflict in Syria have contributed to the lack of health services available in poorer countries, as well as caused more stress among communities.

He said: "Mental health needs to be taken at a higher level of priority within the public health planning and that needs to happen in all countries, whether they are in low-income or high-income groups.

"That means essentially that more resources need to be made available and a strategic plan within each country needs to be developed for increasing and strengthening the mental healthcare services."

Here in the UK, it was announced last week that around 6,000 11 to 14 year olds from 76 schools will receive school lessons in mindfulness, as part of an experiment to determine whether such training can protect against mental illnesses.

The initiative comes after statistics revealed that more than 75% of mental health conditions begin before the age of 24 in the UK, with 50% starting before the age of 15.

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