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Thursday 20th October 2016

Mental health patients neglected

4th September 2007

Up to half of people around the world with severe mental health disorders, and the vast majority of those with mild or moderate disorders, are not receiving treatment.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has appealed to governments to boost support for mental health services, which in many countries are still associated with social stigma and human rights violations.

"The current situation means that people with mental illnesses are at best ignored and at worst actively discriminated against in many countries. We can only improve the services available to people with mental disorders if there is a major and rapid increase in investment in this area," said Dr Benedetto Saraceno, WHO Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

According to a series of reports in The Lancet, mental health services are being starved of both human and financial resources.

WHO's Mental Health Atlas shows that most African and southeast Asian countries spend less than 1% of their health budgets on mental health.

Extremely low numbers of qualified psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses - averaging 0.05 psychiatrists and 0.16 psychiatric nurses per 100,000 population in low-income countries - make it impossible for satisfactory services to be delivered.

WHO said it supported a call for action, backed by The Lancet, to increase the coverage of mental health services for mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries. The call is targeted at public health planners and urges them to assign a higher priority to mental health.

A core package of mental health care costs around US$2 per person per year in poor countries, and US$3-4 in middle income countries, WHO said.

This would pay for the treatment of mental disorders in a primary care setting and community facilities, increasing the treatment coverage rate to about 80% for severe disorders, and to 25-33% for less severe difficulties.

Catherine Le Gal├Ęs-Camus, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, said people living with mental disorders in low and middle income countries were systematically locked out of the benefits of development. Mental disorders, she said, deprived people of the opportunity to escape poverty and claim their rights.

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