Mental Health in Finland
The United Nations has ranked Finland as one of the happiest countries on earth for the last eight years. Praised around the world for its low inequality, high employment rate, successful education system and overall high living standards, it is hard to believe that poor mental health is something that plagues the small Nordic country. Here is some information about mental health in Finland.

Mental Health in Finland

Mental illness affects roughly one in every five Finnish people. This is higher than the European average and has a particular effect on the country’s younger population. Due to the country’s global reputation as the happiest country on earth, young people feel less inclined to speak up about their struggles, some even feel that their struggles are invalid due to where they live.

Mental health in Finland is not a new issue. The country dealt with dramatically high suicide rates in the 80s and 90s. This led to the creation of the National Suicide Prevention Project in 1986. The Project focused on preventing suicide by strengthening mental health services throughout the country, educating the media on reporting suicides and improving public conversation on mental health. The project was extremely successful as the country’s suicide rates decreased by 50% since 1990.

Although the country’s approach to mental health improved over the last four decades, people in Finland continue to suffer. Fear of stigmatization regarding mental health is increasing as others continue to paint the country as the land of no worries. Officials recognize this growing issue and have proposed a new Suicide Prevention Plan for 2020-2030. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare partnered with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to create a list of objectives for the coming decade. Here is a list of its objectives.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s List of Objectives

  1. Raising Awareness: The Finnish government aims to raise awareness about mental health and improve public dialogue by training community members to break down prejudices and provide suicide prevention education to the general public. Trained community members would include teachers, police officers, social workers, school counselors, youth workers, pastors and more.
  2. Reduced Accessibility to Means of Suicide: This objective includes improved planning of infrastructure including buildings, bridges and railways to include suicide preventative architecture. This objective also focuses on creating regulation for the storage of toxic substances, prescription drugs and firearms.
  3. Early Intervention: The Finnish government has put particular emphasis on the importance of addressing mental health during the early stages. This objective focuses on improving telephone helplines to be more inclusive. It also will create online help-centers and offer better educational support to those experiencing non-emergency effects of mental illness.
  4. Inclusivity for High-Risk Groups: This objective aims to create suicide prevention programs that are specific to high-risk groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, those living in poverty, asylum seekers, indigenous people, those suffering from substance abuse and victims of violence. The goal is to make individuals feel heard instead of creating blanketed campaigns that do not address any specific issues.
  5. Improved care options. This objective focuses on Finland’s healthcare system and the care options given to those suffering from mental illness. This includes advancements in online outreach programs and training for healthcare providers to identify signs of mental illness. Furthermore, it establishes emergency care for those at risk of committing suicide and assistance for families affected by suicide.

Mental health in Finland is a serious issue. It cannot afford to be brushed off by the reputation of the happiest country on earth. The Finnish Government does not wish to hide the country’s problems behind this title. It would rather live up to it. Through this new program, the people of Finland anticipate a more inclusive future and a public conversation that embraces the ups and downs of mental health instead of ignoring them.

– Kendall Couture
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Ireland
According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Ireland is the second most developed country. The index ranks countries based on life expectancy, schooling and gross national income. However, the number of people with mental illness in Ireland is among the highest in Europe. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened mental health in Ireland.

Pre-Pandemic Conditions

In 2016, records indicated that 18.5% of the Irish population had a mental health illness. In 2018, The Irish Times ran an article about the prevalence of mental health issues. The paper reported that mental health problems cost the Irish economy over €8.2 billion a year. This is equal to roughly $9.9 billion in the United States. The report stated that one in six individuals in Europe received a mental illness diagnosis in 2016 and that more than 84,000 deaths were due to mental illness or suicide in 2015.

Stigma has a vastly negative impact on mental illnesses in Ireland. Just like in many other countries, those with mental illness fear ridicule and isolation. This can delay people in getting the help they need. Although programs to try and lessen the stigma have been circulating over the years, stigma remains an issue that prevents those who need help from getting it.

The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Mental Health in Ireland

An article from the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, published in May 2020, identified health needs that could occur and require addressing during four waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first wave of the pandemic, the idea was that Ireland’s health system should prepare to address health needs that would emerge during the subsequent waves.

The article determined that during the second wave of the pandemic, people would not seek medical care due to a fear they would become infected with COVID-19. In fact, many people with non-serious conditions and preexisting mental health conditions held off from attending regularly scheduled appointments.

Estimates have determined that the fourth wave will be the largest and longest phase of the pandemic. It is not likely to peak until months after the other phases and could continue for months after COVID-19 infections start dropping. In this fourth wave, the healthcare industry could see many new mental illness cases. Indeed, these could involve those mourning COVID-19 losses, frontline workers under stress, COVID-19 survivors and more. There will also likely be many cases of relapse among those who already struggled with mental health illnesses before the pandemic.

In Ireland, the funding for mental health services has remained low, especially compared with other countries. Compared to New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which both have 12% of the overall health budget allocated to mental health services, Ireland allocates roughly 6%. Investments and innovation are urgent to ensure that people do not overwhelm mental health services. Moreover, it is essential that professionals can respond accordingly when necessary. A survey of 195 psychiatrists in Ireland found that there was an increased number of referrals for anxiety disorders and depression as of 2021.

Solutions

Ireland added another €1 billion to the healthcare budget for 2020. This funding went toward extending free childcare and providing additional employment for therapists and nurses. The additional therapists could help curb the state of mental health in Ireland.

In addition, Ireland’s budget for 2021 includes another €4 billion for healthcare. Additionally, new mental health services will receive €38 million in funding. The plan will be for the enhancement of mental health community teams, child and adolescent mental health services, crisis resolution services, development of clinical care programs and investment in peer support workers and employment supports.

Mental illness in Ireland is a pronounced issue to society, and the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened it. The increase in funding for healthcare in the budget shows that the government has taken steps towards improving mental health services. It may take time to overcome the hurdles pertaining to mental health, but Ireland is making an effort.

– Courtney Roe
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 Spain
While COVID-19 is a terrible disease on a physical level, the pandemic has also posed a challenge to mental health. Moreover, the existence of the disease and political measures such as lockdowns have impacted mental health in Spain.

Current Mental Health Scenario in Spain

Before the outbreak of the pandemic, the incidence of cases of mental stress experienced a decrease. Thus, in 2011, Spain had a 22.1% prevalence of cases while the figure dropped to 19.1% in the year 2017. However, by the end of 2019, COVID-19 began to monopolize the news until it became a harsh global reality.

Initially, Spain had over 9,000 coronavirus new cases on March 31, 2020, and the country’s infection numbers rose from that time. However, the fear of the unknown and the danger of the rapid increase in cases shook the foundations of modern Spanish society. The danger was real, and the average citizens perceived their own vulnerability.

Thereby, while the number of new infections grew, the population began to feel the psychological consequences. With the approval of the state of alarm and subsequent lockdown on March 14, 2020, economic uncertainty and isolation began to harass Spanish families. A study indicated that this led to an increase in anxiety, post-traumatic stress and symptoms of depression between the months of March and April 2020.

With this, the consumption of psychotropic drugs also increased in accordance with this bleak context. During the lockdown, the consumption of anxiolytics rose 15% in a country. Even before the lockdowns, Spain was among the countries in the European Union that consumed the most anxiolytics, sedatives and hypnotics, with only Portugal exceeding it.

In order to avoid the aggravation of mental disorders, primary care is essential. For this, psychologists are necessary for patients who begin to feel symptoms pertaining to poor mental health.

An Unequal Impact

Within this general panorama, one should note that the incidence of depressive or anxious symptoms has been uneven. These symptoms have been more prevalent among lower classes as they have had greater economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, The Center for Sociological Research (CIS) stated this inequality in a recent report indicating that the percentage of lower-class people who have felt down, depressed or hopeless during the pandemic was almost double at 32.7% compared to 17.1% among those with a higher socioeconomic status. Also noteworthy is the prescription for psychotropic drugs; only 3.6% of upper-class people obtained psychotropic drug prescriptions in comparison with 9.8% of lower-class individuals.

Although Spain has a good public health system and a high life expectancy at 83 years in 2018, one of the highest in the world, psychological public care has some deficiencies. As a result, several people cannot access a psychologist.

This makes going to the psychologist a privileged reality. In quantitative terms, if compared with neighboring countries, the Spanish Ombudsman Office reported that while the ratio of psychologists in the Public System per 100,000 inhabitants in Europe is 18, in Spain, this figure drops to six psychologists per 100,000 inhabitants.

The Need for Political Action

Therefore, understanding the mental context and the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented regarding health and the economy, the country must adapt to the scenario and avoid further challenges for mental health in Spain. Given that the Spanish constitution establishes that health is a universal and free right, Spain must prevent mental health from becoming a privilege of a few.

The first “intrusion” of the matter into the political scene was the intervention of deputy Iñigo Errejón, of the Unidas Podemos party, who highlighted the problem in a vehement speech to Parliament. After a social and political upheaval on social media, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has promised to update the national strategy for psychological and psychiatric care of the National Health System in order to guarantee rapid and universal treatment for citizens.

The Prime Minister has admitted in Parliament that the matter is a problem of the first order. In order to provide an effective and rapid solution to this mental health crisis, the update of the Mental Health Strategy has received an endowment of 2.5 million euros. The prevention of mental disorders that include the early detection of potential suicidal behaviors is now on the table in current Spanish politics.

Will Spain’s measures be sufficient in reducing the levels of mental disorders in the Spanish population? Only time will tell. At the moment, Spain’s authorities are working on the issue.

Guillermo Remón
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in JapanDespite being a small country, Japan still holds a significant position in the international community by having the third-largest economy in the world. Japan does well in terms of wealth inequality, ranking well below the international average of 0.73, standing at 0.63. Income equality is an important factor in determining the general health status of a country. Specifically, the measurement tends to be an indicator of a country’s mental health prevalence. Countries with a higher rate of wealth inequality tend to have a higher prevalence of mental illness and vice versa. Mental health in Japan is also often impacted by the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

Prevalence of Mental Diseases in Japan

The prevalence of Common Mental Diseases (CMD) in Japan is relatively low. Japan stacks up favorably against the United States, which ranks fourth globally in wealth inequality and has recorded a prevalence of CMD that is approximately three times that of Japan. Compared with China, which has the largest economy in the world after the United States, the rate of CMD in Japan is somewhat similar. Japan’s balanced economy has helped it maintain a low prevalence of mental illness.

One other potential reason for Japan’s low CMD prevalence is the stigma surrounding mental health in Japanese culture. Japanese society has conditioned its members to believe that a mental health disorder is shameful and signifies a lack of willpower. In a June 2018 study on the perception of mental illness in Japan, more than 80% of Japanese participants believed that treatment could cure depressive disorder or schizophrenia but stigma toward people with schizophrenia was still quite apparent.

Mental Illness Stigma

As a result of Japan’s collectively held stigma, persons affected by mental illness often do not seek treatment. One study which looked at the factors of mental health in Japan found that “the proportion of mental health service use by all persons and those with CMD was lower in Japan compared to most high‐income countries from the 2000s to the 2010s.” This suggests that the CMD prevalence rate in Japan is likely higher in reality while mental illnesses are underreported.

Additionally, many Japanese people do not believe that mental illnesses require professional treatment. There are treatments available in the country for many mental health disorders and “almost two-thirds of sufferers never seek help from a health professional.” The responsibility of caring for a mentally ill person usually falls upon the family or relatives.

It is evident that the negative perceptions surrounding mental health in Japan cause many people to suffer in silence. To combat the stigma against mental illness and schizophrenia, the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology changed the Japanese name of schizophrenia from seishi buntetsu byo (split-mind disorder) to togo shiccho sho (loss of coordination disorder). Although Japan has yet to celebrate its success in ending stigma, even minor changes illustrate that the country is evolving to no longer neglect mental health.

Looking Ahead

The powerful stigma around mental illness in Japan has kept Japanese people from seeking treatment and simultaneously oppresses mentally ill people. The stable economy of Japan, when paired with appropriate wealth distribution, has partially contributed to a low prevalence of CMD as the two are essentially related. However, since the stigma around mental illness is so prevalent in Japan, the low CMD prevalence in the country can also point to the fact that mental diseases are underreported. Improving the nature of mental health in Japan will require the aid of rewriting social norms and reframing mental illness. Japan’s efforts so far are promising for combating mental health stigma in the country.

Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Sparks a New Conversation on Mental Healthcare in China
The People’s Republic of China has a long history of mental healthcare, with the first National Mental Health Meeting in 1958. Along with this history of psychiatric care facilities and mental health resources, there comes a long history of stigma around mental health in China. Even more so since the COVID-19 pandemic began, mental health in China is at the forefront of the country’s mind.

History of Mental Health in China: Services & Stigma

Between 2001 and 2005, the prevalence of mental illness among the Chinese population was 17.5%. While the prevalence alone is striking, the lack of individuals seeking treatment provides a more accurate picture of mental health stigma in China. Of individuals with a diagnosis of a mental disorder, 91.8% never seek professional help. Besides stigma, there is the issue of access. Mental health most heavily affects the most disadvantaged in regard to socioeconomic status. China has a highly regulated and centralized healthcare system, but mental health services make up only 2.35% of the total health budget.

COVID-19’s Impact on Mental Health in China

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, and the subsequent lockdown that began on January 23, 2020, China’s population has experienced the highest levels of psychological distress in decades. A nationwide survey measured the current mental health strain on the people of China and found that 35% of people are experiencing psychological distress.

Women, the elderly, migrant workers and those living in the regions where the pandemic is most severe show the highest rates of physiological distress and mental disorders. While these statistics may seem grim, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a push toward destigmatization of mental health in China and a new conversation around seeking help.

Psychologists have observed that because people are hyperaware of health amid the pandemic, particularly their mental health, there will be a long-term shift in care beginning with the destigmatization of seeking treatment for mental illness and distress.

Positive Examples of New Mental Health Resources

All levels of government and non-governmental organizations have been taking steps to improve mental healthcare in China, given how much of the population reports experiencing mild to severe psychological distress. Local governments have set up mental health support and suicide hotlines. Currently, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline is available 24 hours a day to provide free and confidential information on mental health services and treatment. Mobile apps have emerged with a focus on mental wellbeing to help those experiencing negative mental health symptoms. Since the Ministry of Education has warned of “post-epidemic syndrome,” schools and universities have implemented screening and treatment for depression and anxiety among students.

A Path Forward

China has a population of 1.4 billion people, yet as of 2017, only nine mental health professionals existed for every 100,000 residents. This statistic is a direct result of the long-standing stigma surrounding mental health in China. Amid the negatives of the collective trauma and subsequent physiological distress resulting from the novel coronavirus, the country has successfully opened a dialogue around mental health reform in China, and evidence has determined that this is only the beginning of a hopeful path forward.

– Tatiana Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in the Bahamas
Hurricane Dorian was the strongest hurricane to touch land in The Bahamas, leaving destruction in its wake. While recovering from Hurricane Dorian, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, placing mental health in The Bahamas in a state its people have never seen before.

Hurricane Dorian’s Impact on Mental Health

Hurricane Dorian left scars not only on the affected communities but also on their mental health. Pastor Robert Lockhart, a local Bahamian pastor, offered up his church as a place for people to express their emotions. Only a few people spoke, but the 200 other people in the audience clapped and cried along with the speakers. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that natural disasters usually leave people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), causing increased anxiety, nightmares or depression-like symptoms.

For example, Eulese Cooper, a fisherwoman living in The Bahamas, struggled to deal with her loss. After experiencing a concussion during the storm, she received an advisory to rest. However, she could not sleep because nightmares about the disaster plagued her. Although these mental health issues are justified, people in The Bahamas still worry about public opinion. According to Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands, the increasing suicide rate stems from Bahamians ignoring mental health issues. Dr. Sands states local people often see those that struggle with mental illness as weak and not connected to God.

Discrimination and poverty only worsen issues of mental health in The Bahamas. Such factors are speeding up the progression of this epidemic. Poverty and shaming are the leading causes of depression in the country, and this shaming deters people from seeking help for fear of others calling them “crazy.” Instead of seeing those struggling with mental illness as victims, others tend to see them as violent individuals that are a risk to the community. Projections determined that the Caribbean would have a more than 50% increase in people with mental disorders by 2020, and reports estimated that 80% of these people would not have access to mental healthcare.

Improving the Bahamian People’s Mental State

Luckily, some organizations have recognized the situation in The Bahamas and are attempting to provide aid. Heart to Heart International (HHI) has been doing work on the ground following Hurricane Dorian’s aftermath in providing mental health and medical professionals for Bahamians. HHI has also partnered with the Bahamas Psychological Association (BPA) on a project to provide psychological and mental health services to Hurricane Dorian survivors during the pandemic. The project seeks to alleviate the trauma and anxiety caused by these unexpected events.

The project’s objectives are:

  • Creating and teaching coping mechanisms to help those struggling.
  • Making mental health hotlines more available by expanding hours of operation.
  • Reopening two specialized Creole hotlines.
  • Improving availability for over the phone mental health services for at-risk populations in areas with higher poverty rates or areas that Hurricane Dorian heavily affected.
  • Training and establishing mental health coordinators on more islands to raise awareness about the mental health services available.

It is apparent that mental health is an important issue, but in light of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bahamian people are obtaining more information about mental health. Once the country adopts new strategies to address mental health, its people will begin to recover from the mental strain they have endured.

– Solomon Simpson
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 Iran
The Islamic Republic of Iran is the second-largest Middle Eastern country, home to roughly 83 million people. Iran is one of the oldest civilizations but has the classification of being a developing country. However, its healthcare system is not underdeveloped. Iran has both public and private health care organizations extended to urban and rural areas. Nevertheless, Iran has maintained a 17-18% population share of people with a mental health or development disorder. The global population share of people with any form of mental disorder is 10.7%.

Mental Health in Iran

Mental health issues are prevalent in Iran. About one-fifth of people have a mental illness or substance disorder, amounting to nearly 10% of the total disease burden. Over 60% of Iranians do not receive any treatment, and only 15-25% get proper treatment. Many do not seek treatment, and resources are currently limited to treating disorders for those who do.

While 64% of the population reside in urban areas, mental health is nearly identically prevalent in rural areas. Iran aims to aid urban and rural areas accordingly. The Iranian health care initiative intends to soften the gap between urban-rural access to healthcare. Part of the initiative is lessening the disparity of primary health care between urban and rural areas. The gap has decreased significantly, and Iran has begun integrating mental health treatment into its primary care system.

Therefore, rural areas are obtaining near-equal access to mental health treatment as urban areas. However, only 3% of Iran’s healthcare spending goes toward mental health, which complicates its success in treating mental health. Iran has a robust healthcare system, allocating more money toward mental health should down-trend its number of mental health cases.

Various mental disorders are prevalent in Iran. Iran’s mental health difficulties vary depending on the type of disorder. Overall, mental health maintains a vital challenge for the country. With 4.3 million Iranians currently suffering from depression, it equates to around 5% of the Iranian population, compared to 3.4% of the global population suffering from depression. Another 688,000 Iranians have bipolar disorder, which is less than a percentage point of Iran’s population. Meanwhile, 5.75 million Iranians have an anxiety disorder and over 180,000 Iranians have schizophrenia. With that, mental health disorders of all severities continue to be prevalent in the nation.

Underlying Causes of Mental Health Issues in Iran

Several underlying factors escalate the issue of mental health in Iran. The nation has a fluctuating unemployment rate, shifting between 10-15%, with almost one-third of people living in poor conditions, exacerbating the attempt to aid mental health. While unemployment and poverty are sources of mental health issues, they also lead to mental health deterioration factors. Therefore, women have a higher rate of mental illness in Iran, as they are twice as likely to be unemployed than men in Iran. Another issue is the rate of mental illness increases within older age groups, although adolescents maintain similar rates.

Solutions

Iran has continued to address the issue. Iran has made several attempts to find solutions to lower the number of people with mental health disorders within it. From 2013 to 2018, Iran increased its health expenditure by 2.6% totaling almost 9% of its total GDP. Aforementioned, Iran integrated mental health treatment into its primary care system in 1989, improving access to treatment. As the country increases its healthcare expenditure, mental healthcare funding would increase within Iran’s primary care system. With the steps occurring to reduce the percentage of people needing mental health treatment, resources such as having enough facilities, hospital beds and doctors to treat people are the next step for Iran.

With 792 million people globally living with any form of mental illness, mental health is not only prevalent in Iran. Similarly, the stigma behind mental health has contributed to the setbacks and barriers. Though, Iran maintains a firm hold over taking steps to eradicate the issue over time. As the country continues to make public health care a primary focus, the goal is to see mental health cases slowly dwindle in the foreseeable future. Continuing the betterment of mental health in Iran serves to alleviate unemployment and poverty in the nation.

– James Van Bramer
Photo: Unsplash

Mental Health Emergency Care Services
Mental health emergency care services are a necessity for women across the globe. One in three women experiences a physical or sexual violation in their lifetime. The mental health implications of sexual and physical abuse against women are staggering. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N., “Women who experience physical or sexual abuse are twice as likely to have an abortion.” It claims “the experience nearly doubles their likelihood of falling into depression,” as well as “[makes] them more likely to acquire HIV” and “have alcohol disorders.” Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Through this Sustainable Development Goal, the United Nations seeks to end gender-based violence.

In the meantime, many women suffer under the impact of the violence they have already endured. However, there are mental health agencies, emergency care centers and programs that help women after they suffer physical trauma. Here is some information about mental health emergency care services for women.

Samburu Girls Foundation

Doctor Josephine started the Samburu Girls Foundation after rescuing her cousin from a forced marriage and subsequently saving 20 other children. Samburu now rescues at-risk girls in four different counties in Kenya: Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo and Laikipia. Samburu Girls Foundation helps girls escape child marriage, beading and female genital mutilation (FGM). Pro-bono counselors work to provide safe living conditions and psychological help to young girls who have suffered from sexual and physical abuse. The foundation also seeks to equip the children with a valid education. This occurs through the Schools End FGM program. This program educates communities on the harm that practices such as female genital mutilation induce. Over 1,183 girls have received help from this organization.

Forgotten Women Sexual Trauma Clinic

The organization, Forgotten Women, has a sexual trauma clinic that serves over 105,000 women per year. Its clinic primarily reaches Rohingya women who experienced sexual assault. Many of these women suffer from internal tearing and infections, thousands of whom have become pregnant. Since 2017, over 900,000 people have escaped from Myanmar to Bangladesh refugee camps. Unfortunately, a change in environment has not resolved the trauma that lingers with thousands of the brutalized women. Forgotten Women’s clinic offers several mental health services, such as one-to-one trauma therapy and group counseling sessions. These are necessary services that invest in the healing and well-being of women who have endured sexual, physical abuse and trauma.

The Spotlight Initiative

The Spotlight Initiative is a collaborative effort between the United Nations and European Union. It focuses on eradicating violence against women and girls, specifically in the following areas: Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Latin America. In Southeast Asia, The Spotlight Initiative provides counseling support via telephone to women in need. According to the initiative, “Since [April 2020], the hotline has received seven times the number of calls it did during the same period in 2019.” The counselors accept calls from women who are suffering from violence. They are responsible for collaborating with local authorities, and referring women to counselors when necessary and supplying legal support.

The pandemic has also worsened violent conditions for women in Mexico. The violence against women and girls (VAWG) caused a spike in phone calls to an additional 53% at the start of 2020. Through the aid of the Spotlight Initiative, alongside the support of the government and private sector, Grupo Posadas hotels now provide seven costless nights to women and children in need of protective services. After their stay, they receive direction to justice centers and other helpful resources.

Collaboration

Working alongside the United Nations on the Sustainable Development Goals is a powerful way to end violence against women and girls. Violence has increased due to the conditions that the pandemic brought on. The services provided by organizations operating under The Spotlight Initiative,  such as Forgotten Woman’s Sexual Trauma Clinic and Samburu Girls Foundation, are vital resources. They provide meaningful, mental health support emergency care services to women and girls that have already experienced violence and need help.

Hannah Brock
Photo: Flickr