Mental Health in the Solomon Islands
Best known for its exquisite marine life, the Solomon Islands is a nation of approximately 700,000 in Oceania. Furthermore, the World Health Organization’s depression rate estimates put the country as the least depressed nation in the entire world. To make this even more impressive, the Solomon Islands’ GDP per capita is lower than that of the 10 most depressed countries.

So, what is its secret? How does an impoverished nation grow to boast the world’s lowest rates of depression? Unfortunately, the answer is that these numbers grossly misrepresent the situation.

The Problem of Diagnosis

Mental health statistics rely on diagnoses, which are not widespread in impoverished nations. Mental health in the Solomon Islands seems low. However, this is because of inadequate healthcare which results in undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses.

Though one cannot simply say that all impoverished nations have higher rates of depression, their statistics may be untrustworthy or undocumented. Additionally, merit exists regarding the idea that citizens of some less wealthy nations are actually happier. This is often because of spirituality or a closer community. However, several factors suggest that this is not the case in the Solomon Islands.

Equality and Depression

The two most striking examples of this phenomenon revolve around equality. The first is gender inequality. This problem is easy to see through statistics of domestic abuse. According to the National Institute of Health, more than three in five women in the nation revealed that they suffered from “physical[ly] and/or sexual[ly]” abused. This rate is among the highest in the world.

The second suggestive element of the Solomon Islands’ reported depression rate is lower than in reality is sexuality intolerance. Gay marriage remains illegal for men, as does adoption. Non-straight people do not receive equal protection under the law, and conversion therapy is legal. These all take substantial tolls on the mental health of homosexual people. The community already reports higher than average rates of depression and suicide.

Looking Forward

The outstanding mental health in the Solomon Islands does in fact seem to be a grave case of misleading data. However, such an investigation does yield two significant and optimistic takeaways. First, the case of the Solomon Islands shows the importance of fighting for equality. Misleading statistics can entirely conceal the struggles of minority groups through the impression that the nation is not in need of development aid. Australia, a close partner to the west of the Solomon Islands, is doing great work to fight this inequality, which includes increasing mental health resources.

Second, an integral part of foreign aid needs to look out for psychological well-being. Poor nations do not have the proper training in diagnostics to communicate that mental health should be a priority, but that is part of healthcare, another key component of development. Thankfully, this idea underwent a recent proposal to the U.S. Congress through the MINDS Act. This act would force the world’s richest nations to consider the mental health of the nations to which they provide aid. Hopefully, with adequate support, these organizations and partnerships will address mental health in the Solomon Islands.

– Sam Konstan
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Sri Lanka
The world is gaining understanding regarding the importance of mental health, with increasing awareness and acceptance of mental disorders. As society progresses and science advances, the realization frequently emerges that a greater need exists to address mental health as a contribution to total wellness for individuals. Sri Lanka, an island east of India in the Indian Ocean, has a population of about 20 million and one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Each year, mental health in Sri Lanka results in about 100,000 people attempting suicide and 6,000 losing their lives.

Mental Health Challenges in Conflict Scenarios

The topic of mental health in Sri Lanka includes the idea that a difference exists between mental health in normal times and mental health as a result of a conflict. Mental health issues are normal to have, occurring across every country and population for varying reasons, whether they be genetics, living conditions or stress triggers. On top of the mental health problems that exist in normal circumstances, it is necessary to address mental health issues that occur as a result of a conflict as well.

In 2009, Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war ended with a death toll of more than 70,000 and lasting health effects on its people. Such a destructive war left civilians and soldiers with lasting anxiety, PTSD and depression as a result of the violence they experienced. Along with negative effects on health as a result of war and conflict, the economy and financial abilities of the country suffered as well.

The Effects of The Indian Ocean Tsunami

Sri Lanka’s location as an island in the Indian Ocean makes it prone to natural disasters such as tsunamis. Around 35,000 Sri Lankans died as a result of The Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, leaving hundreds of thousands of others injured and homeless. It also adversely affected their mental health.

This kind of event can leave civilians in a state of shock and anxiety, often resulting in disorders such as PTSD and depression following their losses. While the tsunami inflicted immense physical damage and mental illness, other countries provided support funding to reform Sri Lanka’s mental health system. Though the disaster has renewed the country’s attention to mental health, it has also left Sri Lankans with little to nothing in the way of resources or infrastructure.

The Necessity of Resources

Mental wellness requires adequate resources in order to successfully aid those in need. Basic mental health resources include psychiatrists, therapists and a facility or technology if no facilities exist. In Sri Lanka, estimates determined that only one psychiatrist exists for every 500,000 people. The urban areas of the country are war-torn and the rural areas are too far outside of the urban concentration, so resource availability for necessities such as facilities is quite limited.

Without trained staff and medical providers, it is hard to effectively address mental health needs and expectations. Additionally, without resources like facilities and funding, challenges exist that inhibit the ability to innovate the current mental health system to a higher standard.

Initiatives to Address Mental Health in Sri Lanka

In 1985, a group of individuals concerned about mental health issues formed the NGO called Nivahana Society of Kandy (NSK). NSK focuses on mental wellness improvement in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. In 1999, the World Health Organization (WHO) approved a proposal for a project called the Mental Health Policy and Service Development (MPS) Project on behalf of NSK, aiming to reduce the number of admissions/re-admissions to psychiatric hospitals and to establish supportive infrastructure.

Through the Mental Health Policy and Service Development (MPS) Project, the number of re-admissions to psychiatric hospitals decreased by 70% in the Western Province. This project is successful and also creates a strengthened network of psychiatric services among Central and Western Provinces, establishing new clinics and extending the range of reach for the project’s support.

The Sri Lankan government collaborates with the Sri Lankan National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to integrate mental health into primary care within the country. The effort began in 2009 with a training program for medical practitioners that are integrating mental health care into primary care plans.

The lack of resources and funding for mental health awareness projects tends to be the main obstacle to total mental wellness in Sri Lanka. Mental health in Sri Lanka remains a critical issue in healthcare that needs innovation. With initiatives from NGOs like NSK and the Sri Lankan NIMH collaborations with the government, Sri Lanka can make its way to mental wellness among its population.

– Kylie Lally
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Rwanda
In 1994, Rwanda experienced a genocide that resulted in the death of approximately 1 million people and the displacement of millions more. Many are still feeling the results of this genocide to this day, just 27 years later. Studies have shown that 94% of the population witnessed at least one traumatic event during the genocide, including the death of a loved one, the destruction of their home or a threat to their lives. As a result, approximately 25% of the population meets the criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Every April, during the annual commemoration of the events, there is a spike in people experiencing symptoms of PTSD and anxiety. The burden of mental health in Rwanda is a pressing concern for the country and it has made great strides to tackle this challenge.

The State of Mental Health Care Globally

Mental health services are often the last health service that undergoes establishment or receives funding. Globally, mental health professionals account for just 1% of the workforce worldwide. Meanwhile, 45% of the world’s population has access to just one psychiatrist per 100,000 people, even though over 10% of the global population has a mental health disorder. These numbers are even higher in sub-Saharan Africa, where the average rate of mental illness is about 12%. There are only 0.06 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in Rwanda.

What the Rwandan Government is Doing

Despite these grim statistics, the Rwandan government recognized the need for large-scale mental health services in the wake of the genocide. In 1995, it established a national mental health service with the goal of providing services within the context of the community.

Since then, mental healthcare has featured in many of Rwanda’s health goals, including Rwanda’s Fourth Sector Strategic Plan, which the country passed in 2018. This plan set goals and strategies for the nation’s health care for six years since its implementation (until 2024). It sets up several strategies for the future of care for mental health in Rwanda. These include having mental health intervention in all health centers and community units, defining the mental health package for each level, scaling up the surveillance and reporting system for following up with patients and expanding services for the prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.

Another strategy is the construction of a National Mental Health Care Center. The plan considers mental health alongside physical health issues such as malaria. It even includes a section ensuring people with disabilities, who are often cannot access mental health plans, have access to care.

The Rwanda Ministry of Health also teamed up with Johnson & Johnson in 2018 to establish a five-year three-pronged approach to understand the burden of mental disorders, decentralize care and increase access to affordable, quality medicine. These two plans, if implemented successfully, will provide access to mental health services for much of the country and ensure a healthier, happier population.

The Future of Mental Health Care

These plans are especially vital right now, as, due to the inherent trauma of living through a global pandemic, the burden of mental health in Rwanda and throughout the world is sure to rise. Governments need to be willing and able to commit to ensuring the continued mental health of their people. Rwanda has become an example in sub-Saharan Africa and much of the world for how to integrate mental healthcare into a national health plan. Hopefully, these plans will continue to improve the state of mental health care in the country through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

– Harriet Sinclair
Photo: Pixabay

Mental Health in Morocco
A 60-year-old royal decree largely dictates mental health in Morocco, but the government and outside institutions have been working to address this outdated decree in the last decades. A Dahir, or King’s decree, emerged in 1959, which determines Morocco’s mental health program, rights of patients and other aspects. Due to the inadequacy of the law, the Ministry of Health has and still is working on a new law to address treatment for mental health in Morocco.

The Current Situation for Mental Health in Morocco

In 2009, the government published a mental health profile of the country’s general population. The government’s report on mental health in the country used a random sample that it took of the population. Researchers interviewed nearly 5,500 people and over 40% of those interviewed had an active mental disorder.

Mental health disorders were more frequent among women, the divorced, unemployed and those in urban areas. More recent data on Moroccan mental health add credence to these older findings.

A 2019 study in the Annals of General Psychiatry outlined that one in five children in Morocco suffered from insomnia, depression or anxiety. Half of the mental health issues in Morocco’s children started at the age of 14. The Moroccan Ministry of Health published that nearly half of all adolescents it studied suffer from a mental health disorder. Morocco’s adolescents make up nearly 9% of the country’s total population. Outside institutions like the World Bank state that women and those who are young require special attention. The World Bank described the important relationship between education, work productivity, family care and mental health.

Solutions

The Moroccan government and the World Health Organization (WHO) are addressing mental health shortcomings with three major goals; drafting new legislation on mental health, building more hospitals and increasing the psychiatric workforce. The WHO’s “Country Cooperation Strategy for 2017-2021″ focuses on the entirety of the health care system in Morocco. However, legislative scrutiny is addressing mental health in Morocco, specifically.

Addressing the 1959 Dahir

The government adopted draft legislation in 2015 that addressed the outdated nature of the 1959 Dahir. The law emerged to protect the rights of those with mental health disorders. After scrutiny from health care professionals in Morocco, the government announced that the law would go under review in consultation with the Moroccan Society of Psychiatry or other leaders in the mental health field. The draft law is currently still under review.

Building More Psychiatric Hospitals

Morocco’s mental health infrastructure is currently getting a boost. The government is building psychiatric hospitals, one of which has already started construction. These hospitals are part of a greater initiative to increase regional access to health care. In fact, a psychiatric clinic finished construction in late 2020. All of these health infrastructure creations are part of a cooperative between the WHO and Morocco.

Increasing the Mental Health Workforce

The WHO reported that the ratio of psychiatrists was at 0.4 per 100,000 in 2005. However, in 2017, that ratio was at 0.84 which means it has doubled in 12 years. The WHO’s numbers show a steady increase in this workforce. A case study of under-resourced areas in Morocco has proposed peer-therapy as a solution to the lack of available mental health physicians.

A 2017 case study in Morocco gives hope to under-resourced areas. Sixty people ages 18-33 engaged in a rehabilitation program. The researchers found that the sessions were successful. They believe peer-therapy can make up for the lack of an available workforce.

While treatment for mental health in Morocco has presented some challenges, the country is working to improve the situation. Through the implementation of new hospitals and clinics as well as peer-therapy, access to mental health care should improve for Morocco’s residents.

– Jacob Richard Bergeron
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health Resources Physical health is often the focus of healthcare advocacy groups, but mental health needs to be improved around the world just as much. While some still consider mental health a taboo subject, it is important to improve the lives and prospects of those in poverty. The violence and trauma that often go hand-in-hand with extreme poverty can cause mental health issues. Proper care is often lacking but organizations are stepping up to the challenge. There are several organizations providing mental health resources in developing countries.

The Africa Mental Health Research and Training Foundation (AMHRTF)

AMHRTF focuses on providing mental health services in developing countries like Kenya. The organization prioritizes community health, making it a point to educate and serve community members of all ages from children to the elderly. It puts special focus on pregnancy and postpartum mental healthcare and trauma-related mental health disorders. In addition, the organization employs professionals with a wide range of specialties in order to implement holistic care. AMHRTF aims to make mental healthcare in Kenya available and accessible.

Strong Minds

Strong Minds focuses on providing mental health services in developing countries throughout the African continent. Specifically, the organization works toward ending Africa’s depression epidemic and reaching the most vulnerable women with depression in sub-Saharan Africa. After conducting research on the most effective and cost-efficient ways to conduct programs, Strong Minds settled on a model of consistent group therapy for a period of 12 weeks that a trained community member led. Qualifying to receive training as a group leader does not require a high level of formal education beforehand and is therefore accessible to members of communities in extreme poverty. These groups are extremely effective at reducing the cases of depressive episodes and providing coping mechanisms.

The World Federation for Mental Health

The World Federation for Mental Health emerged in 1948 and has been active in several different areas of mental health services since. The organization’s focus is destigmatizing mental illness and advocating for international and national mental health policies for the underserved. The organization helps to organize mental health awareness activities and events around the world and educate the public on mental health conditions. It also aims to improve care, treatment and recovery of people with mental disorders.

Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry

The Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry initially provided mental health services in developing countries in Europe with a special focus on nations that were previously part of the USSR. The organization’s work has now spread to include other regions too. The organization advocates for mental health care as a human right and assists people with mental health disorders, intellectual disabilities and trauma-based disorders. Like Strong Minds, the Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry focuses on improving mental health options and services on a community level by working with local negative forms of mental illness management and helping to create more positive treatment options. The organization’s decentralized approach makes solutions more sustainable in the long term.

Center for Health and Human Development

Mental Health International, under the umbrella of the organization Center for Health and Human Development, helps to provide mental healthcare in El Salvador and other developing countries like Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The organization aims to destigmatize mental illness and form a network of NGOs to provide care to people with mental health disorders like depression and schizophrenia. Mental Health International also provides self-empowerment techniques along with training and classes for mental health caregivers.

All the above organizations work to improve and provide mental health resources in developing countries and create a world in which everyone in need has access to sufficient care.

Che Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Thailand
Mental health has been a hot topic recently, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thailand is one country that has been struggling with mental health. As of 2019, Thailand has had a population of about 70 million with a substantial number experiencing mental illness. Here is some information about mental health in Thailand.

The Situation

According to Deputy Health Minister Dr. Surawith Konsomboon, the most common diseases in Thailand are psychosis, anxiety disorders, depression and apoplexy. In a Department of Mental Health study from 2012, Konsomboon found that about 20% of the Thai population has struggled with some type of mental illness. Additionally, projections have determined that this number will grow each year.

Health Care System

Thailand’s current mental health policy emerged in 1995, which includes advocacy, promotion, treatment and rehabilitation. Its plan was to promote maintaining one’s mental health and preventing future mental health issues while forming new treatment services.

Thailand’s universal health coverage started in 2002. The intent was for care to be affordable, yet many extra costs exist with certain treatments. The government and private and non-governmental sectors now provide psychiatric services to give services for mental health in Thailand.

However, many hospitals are facing issues with having too many patients, a lack of staff members and under-financing from their government. This creates difficulties in providing quality care to their patients and having enough funding to do their job effectively.

Young People and Mental Health Discussions

According to interviews that UNICEF performed, adolescents feel that mental health in Thailand does not receive the attention it requires. Many people do not have access to services and information that they need in order to understand and manage their emotions and thoughts. This creates many difficulties including negative perceptions and stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

The risks of developing mental health struggles are especially high for those who are facing poverty, discrimination and violence. UNICEF explained how adolescents wish that there was an open space with their families and friends to talk about the things that they are struggling with instead of bottling their feelings up and keeping it to themselves.

These feelings of stress and depression have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people are fearful of getting the virus, stressed about the transition to online school and work and loneliness from social distancing. This is especially true for those who do not have a solid financial situation and are worried about their employment.

Contributing Factors

A wide gap exists between the rich and the poor in Thailand, contributing to societal pressures and judgment. Living in poverty has a negative effect on one’s mental health, as financial crises can lead to an increase in stress regarding supporting one’s family.

High expectations in Thai culture have also added pressure to the lives of young people, which can weigh them down as time goes on. Feeling the need to be perfect in college and supporting one’s family can be a key part of poor mental health in Thailand.

On the bright side, Thailand has been working to reduce its rate of poverty over the past few decades. In 1988, over 65% of people were living in poverty. As of 2018, this rate decreased to under 10%. This process is still in effect, and the number continues to decrease.

Progress

Many causes and influences have contributed to struggles regarding mental health in Thailand, including societal pressures and poverty. Adolescents feel this pressure through their experiences in school and work as they are trying to build a life for themselves while making their family proud. However, the Ministry of Public Health has goals to expand its mental health services. It hopes to increase children’s emotional intelligence and decrease the suicide rate in Thailand through its efforts.

Over the past two decades, the Ministry of Public Health has emphasized developing systematic and effective technology which will be able to improve health programs. Thailand is also incorporating mental health care into community services, prison services and psychiatric rehabilitation. The efforts in laying down these foundations have been raising the quality of services that the country provides.

– Miranda Kargol
Photo: Flickr

 Mental Health in Rwanda Rwanda is a small country in sub-Saharan Africa. Rwanda has struggled to become a stable country economically and politically since it became independent in 1962. As a developing country, Rwanda is still trying to develop its healthcare system. With years of conflict and instability, people especially struggle with mental health in Rwanda.

5 Facts About Mental Health in Rwanda

  1. The Rwandan Genocide plays a significant role. Roughly 25% of Rwandan citizens struggle with PTSD and one in six people suffer from depression. The reason why so many Rwandans have mental health conditions can be explained by one key event in Rwandan history. During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority. The mass genocide caused severe trauma to survivors who still suffer from mental health issues 26 years after the event.
  2. Rwanda has very few resources. According to the World Health Organization, Rwanda has only two mental health hospitals, zero child psychiatrists, and only 0.06 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. With a large amount of the population plagued by mental health issues, Rwanda needs more resources to help the mentally ill.
  3. Suicide rates have greatly decreased in Rwanda. In 2016, the suicide rate in Rwanda was 11 deaths per 100,000 people. This is a great improvement compared to the 24.6 suicides per 100,000 people in 2000. An increase in mental health resources contributes to the lowering of the suicide rate in Rwanda.
  4. Increased mental health funding is essential. The average mental health expenditure per person in Rwanda is 84.08 Rwandan francs. Most citizens of Rwanda do not have the financial resources to afford mental healthcare. The government currently uses 10% of its healthcare budget on mental health services. Considering how large the mental health crisis is, the government should increase its expenditure to address the crisis. Since citizens cannot afford to pay for mental health resources, the government will need to help provide more free or affordable resources.
  5. The Rwandan Government is updating policies to address mental health. In 2018, Rwanda’s updated strategic plan for its health sector set new targets for expanding mental health care services. Its purpose is to help increase access to mental health resources by decentralizing mental health and integrating it into primary care. Also, this plan calls for a decrease in the cost of mental healthcare and an increase in the quality of care. The plan hopes to accomplish strategic goals by 2024. If successful, this plan may be used as a method to help other countries establish a quality mental health plan.

The Road Ahead for Rwanda

Considering Rwanda’s violent history, it is no surprise that the population struggles with mental health. Over the years, progress has been made with regard to mental health in Rwanda. However, many more resources are needed to help address the mental health crisis in Rwanda. With Rwanda’s updated strategic plan to address the issue and an increase in expenditure, the well-being of Rwandan’s will be positively impacted.

Hannah Drzewiecki
Photo: Flickr

Bipolar Awareness in IndiaIndia is the second-most densely populated nation in the world, with more than 1.3 billion people. Of that number, more than 82 million citizens suffer from bipolar disorder, according to data from 2019. Bipolar disorder in India often goes undiagnosed and untreated for reasons ranging from ancient superstitions to the cost of treatment, but, bipolar awareness in India is steadily progressing.

Bipolar Disorder in India

Improved bipolar awareness in India exemplifies how a concerted effort can reduce stigma and create an affordable and readily available avenue for treatments such as therapy and medication. Indians, mostly women, have been disowned and abandoned by family or a spouse after receiving a bipolar diagnosis. In a country where the consequences of a mental condition are isolation and disconnection, the need for awareness and education is paramount.

A nation that once attributed bipolar disorder to demonic spirits, planetary alignments or a sinful past life, has come extremely far in its understanding of the illness. But, the stigma surrounding the disorder is still prevalent in India, and many, especially those from rural locations, believe bipolar disorder is a choice or an illness reserved for the rich and privileged.

BipolarIndia Organization

One resource improving bipolar awareness in India is the organization BipolarIndia. The community was created in 2013 by Vijay Nallawala, an Indian man that suffers from bipolar disorder, and his mentor and friend, Puneet Bhatnagar. BipolarIndia’s mission is to create an empathetic, judgment-free environment for bipolar people to find information, treatment, and most of all, support from those that can relate to their struggle.

BipolarIndia hosts a National Conference every year on World Bipolar Day to create awareness for the illness and educate residents from all over the country. In 2015, the organization began hosting monthly support meetings for individuals to speak with peers that can understand their struggle. It has also recently developed a way for patients to receive real-time support through the Telegram App when they feel they may need immediate help. Resources such as the Telegram App are invaluable due to the lack of mental health professionals in India.

The Mental Health Care Bill

Data from a 2005 report shows that there are only three psychiatrists per million citizens and only 0.06% of India’s healthcare budget goes toward improving mental healthcare. The Indian Government passed a Mental Health Care Bill in June of 2013 laying out a mission to improve bipolar awareness in India as well as reduce stigma surrounding all mental health issues. The bill has been undergoing revisions and policy modifications based on the guidance given by the Indian Association of Psychiatry.

Efforts to Raise Awareness

The government’s efforts to raise awareness about the complexity of bipolar disorder and the number of Indians that suffer in silence is vital to the disorder being understood. The Indian government aims to provide communities with adequate care and reliable information, leading the nation to a better understanding of a complicated mental disorder.

Bipolar awareness in India has improved with private organizations such as the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) funding research on effective treatments and raising awareness across the globe.

Also fighting for bipolar awareness, Indian celebrities, including Deepika Padukone, Rukh Kahn, Yo Yo Honey Singh and Anushka Sharma, have stepped forward and opened up about their personal battles with bipolar disorder, combatting the stigma surrounding the illness.

The Road Ahead

Bipolar awareness in India has slowly improved but still has a long way to go. If the government aims to change the attitude toward bipolar disorder and improve treatment, a significant investment in research is vital as well as a comprehensive understanding of the disorder.

–  Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Malaysia
Populations of people who suffer from mental illness exist in every country in the world. Some countries, like Malaysia, have a more prominent number of mental illness cases than others, having an equal ratio of one in five cases in comparison to the United States. Malaysian Medics International (MMI) pointed out that Malaysia has a national average of 1.27 psychiatrists per 100,000 people, a stark contrast to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation for a ratio of one psychiatrist per 10,000 people. Here is some information about mental health in Malaysia and efforts to treat it.

About Mental Illness in Malaysia

Mental illness can have a large variety of causes. Moreover, pre-existing circumstances such as poverty can make cases of mental illness worse. Such cases tend to make it difficult for patients to maintain a steady lifestyle due to mental health symptoms that make full functionality difficult. The poverty that is already prominent often means that a support system is not present to give the patients the time they need to recover. In 2020, the police reported that 25% of recent suicides related to pressures of debt.

Stigma exists in Malaysia regarding mental health. Some Malaysians perceive mental illness as a natural phenomenon or a kind of divine punishment; this viewpoint often exists within families who have more religious inclinations. Many cases see these families attempting to ‘purge’ such conditions through spiritual means that have not always received medical approval and may not have positive effects.

Mental Health Among Youth

Prior to 2014-2015, few investigations into the statistics of mental health of the youth of Malaysia occurred. With the inclusion of mental health in the National Health Morbidity survey, the country is now taking the numbers more seriously and believes it should observe mental health numbers in order to preserve future generations.

In 2015, the National Health Morbidity Survey stated that mental health illnesses and conditions were likely to become the second most prominent illness after heart disease in Malaysia by 2020. In 2017, the National Health Morbidity Survey showed that one in five adolescents has depression while two in five have anxiety. At that time, 11.2% reported suicidal tendencies or intentions, and 10.1% reported that they have attempted suicide. Now in 2021, that statistic has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused an increasing report of cases of mental health problems. Worldwide, the increase of those who suffer from mental illness has risen by an estimated 10 million.

Treatment for Mental Health Issues

Not everyone has access to treatment. Some are unable to afford it and certain areas lack proper clinics. Even in cases where there are professionals who can help, it can be difficult to make a consistent appointment. The WHO revealed statistics that showed that the ratio of psychiatrists to patients is 1:200,000 in Malaysia. On the chance that a person would be able to get a consultation, the aid they need may not always be available or open to them.

The Mental Illness and Support Association (MIASA)

There are organizations that are already working to offer as much support as possible for those who may not have access to resources like therapy or medication. Beginning in 2017, the Mental Illness And Support Association (MIASA) made it its mission to promote awareness on the importance of mental health in Malaysia. Its charities and services seek to provide aid for patients and caregivers alike. It offers a holistic solution by also encouraging spirituality alongside medical treatment, which is to give patients empowerment and autonomy.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)

Certain companies are also working to make it easier for those with mental illnesses to reach out if there are no professionals available to them. In August 2019, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) worked with eight phone operation companies in order to waive call charges for people making calls to the Befrienders helpline, which is a mental health helpline that provides services such as counseling and emotional support over the phone. With the right aid, it is working to ensure that anyone can get the support they need for a healthy, functioning lifestyle.

It is the hope of the Malaysian government that with greater advocacy, the rise of mental illness in the growing youth will level out. The medical studies that have made this rise clear have helped to erase doubts about the prominence of mental illness and prove the need for treatment for mental health in Malaysia. In order to preserve future generations, the country will continue to take measures in order to give patients the support they need to live functioning and healthy lifestyles.

– Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Bosnia and Herzegovina
In the past half-century, mental health treatment has become a hallmark of national development and Europe has been no exception. Nations of the former Soviet Bloc have seen major developments in the last several years. Before violence broke out in the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a fairly strong psychiatric care system with wards in larger hospitals. However, since the stabilization of the region, the system has undergone rebuilding with a focus on not only hospital wards, but also community mental health care clinics.

Despite its small population of only 3.5 million, Bosnia and Herzegovina have been a model of mental health care in the Balkan region. Mental health care in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been extremely important since the deadly conflicts within the former Yugoslavia, particularly the Bosnian Genocide from 1992-1995. Additionally, it continues to be important into the 20th century with high rates of mental illness among survivors of the conflict.

The Situation

While mental health in Bosnia and Herzegovina has not received a lot of study, it is clear that post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina has comparatively high levels of mental illness stemming from trauma. This includes but is not limited to mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and personality disorders. Many citizens have experienced internal displacement or repatriation or suffered violent trauma during the period of unrest in the Balkans in the 1990s and early 2000s leading to extensive need for mental health care both long term and in crisis situations. While this suffering is certainly not ideal, it has encouraged a number of organizations to assist in not only the implementation of systems of accessible mental health care but also campaigns to destigmatize mental illness in new and innovative ways.

These systems have been highly successful and have provided care for thousands of individuals through 74 community mental health centers, several teaching clinical centers in major cities and nine full psychiatric wards all of which can handle both acute and chronic mental health concerns. The involvement of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs has helped make these achievements possible. It has made a major effort to structure and fund the creation of vast mental health programs and networks along with the help of several international NGOs including HealthNet International, the World Health Organization (WHO), Medica Zenica and the Red Cross. All of these organizations have contributed to funding, training and organizing clinics around the country. This has allowed for a complete restructuring of the mental health care system in the country including international advocacy groups collaboration on legislation to improve the lives of mentally ill citizens.

Government-Provided Mental Health Care

While Bosnia and Herzegovina have an absolute poverty rate of over 16% which is above the global average, citizens can rely on government-provided mental health care through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare operates through a decentralized system and receives funding through citizens’ mandatory national health insurance.

In addition to improvements in mental health care, new programs have seen extensive success in destigmatizing psychiatric illness. In the last several years, mental health in Bosnia and Herzegovina has improved through the implementation of mental health promotion programs in schools as well as in communities, which serve to normalize mental illness and discuss mental health. The success of these systems offers an example by which to construct mental health systems in smaller nations that desperately need access to these services.

Despite the struggles of the past half-century, Bosnia and Herzegovina has become an example of positive mental health care restructuring. Moreover, it seems likely that the system will continue to make improvements over time.

– Che Jackson
Photo: Flickr