Mental Health in Developing Countries
Mental illness is something that has long been surrounded by a stigma, and for most countries, the treatment for mental illness is severely underfunded. People struggling with things such as depression and substance abuse disorders have faced huge barriers in their care and wellness, and unfortunately, many countries lack the amount of mental health professionals necessary to treat every individual.

Treatment of Mental Health in Developing Countries

According to The World Health Organization (WHO), low-income countries have less than one psychiatrist for every 100,000 people, and many countries spend next to nothing for mental health programs. In 2011, India spent less than one percent of its health budget on mental health care. Many countries and organizations have noticed these statistics and are now working together to end the stigma surrounding the treatment of mental health in developing countries.

In 2014, India introduced the countries first ever mental health policy. This policy will be geared towards hiring more mental health professionals, and providing increased funding to clinics and hospitals, so that they are able to implement more patient-treatment programs. This new policy was launched on the first National Mental Health Day the country ever organized, and Dr. Harsh Vardhan, India’s Union Health Minister stated that, “It is an occasion for raising peoples’ awareness on mental illness, and removing the false perceptions attached to them.”

Organizational Involvement

The United Nations (U.N.) is also doing its part to ensure people all over the world have access to treatment for mental health. In 2015, The U.N. included mental health and substance abuse treatment in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For the first time, world leaders are recognizing the importance of providing substantial treatment for those struggling with mental health and addition issues. WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan states that “the inclusion of noncommunicable diseases under the health goal is a historical turning point. Finally, these diseases are getting the attention they deserve.”

Partners in Health (PIH) is yet another organization determined to end the stigma surrounding mental health in developing countries. This group partners with countries to establish more inclusive mental health treatment programs. Such organizations have made their foci the implementation of health programs in the neediest countries.

After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, PIH started a mental health system to serve an area of over one million people. PIH also started a mental health training model in Rwanda called MESH (Mentoring and Advanced Supervision at Health Centers), whose focus is providing affordable, community-based care.

Recognizing and Aiding Mental Health

Across many countries, mental health and addiction issues are beginning to be seen as legitimate health problems. For so long, thousands of people have been unable to access the care that they truly need, and over the past several years, this lack has begun to change. With a staggering amount of the global population burdened with things such as anxiety and depression, governments and organizations all over the world are beginning to see treatment for these diseases as a priority.

No longer are people forced to feel alone in their struggles, with no hope of much-needed care and support. With more funding aimed at treatment programs and the hiring of more care professionals, people everywhere are finally one step closer to getting the help they deserve.

– Allisa Rumreich
Photo: Flickr

mental health in sub-Saharan AfricaIn sub-Saharan Africa, where communicable diseases are common, mental disorders make up about 10 percent of the total burden of disease, according to the World Health Organization. There has been little research related to mental health in poorer countries in comparison to the investment in non-mental health.

There are multiple factors that affect the lack of treatment and preventive strategies for mental disorders: financial scarcity, unqualified staff and a lack of effective public health policy. However, there are effective measures that can help with the prevalence of mental health in sub-Saharan Africa.

There is a connection between the mental and physical health of an individual. Poor mental health can negatively impact physical health because it can increase the risk of chronic diseases or simply leave an individual feeling incapable of taking care of their wellbeing. By improving mental health in sub-Saharan Africa, there could be a noticeable increase in overall health as well.

For example, one effort is through the collaboration of “research institutions and ministries of health in Uganda, Ethiopia, India, Nepal and South Africa, with partners in Britain and the WHO that was formed in 2011 to expand mental health services in low and middle-income countries”, according to the Rand Corporation.

The main goal of this project is to measure how impactful mental health programs would be in primary healthcare settings such as hospitals and clinics. An area like sub-Saharan Africa would be included in the range of countries that require the expansion of mental health services.

Generating more research and elaborating on the issue of mental health is vitally important because it means that the right resources will be assigned towards addressing the needs of those with a mental illness. It will also be important in the future to increase funding for mental health programs and for the international community and national government to contribute to the above factors that affect the lack of treatment and preventive strategies for mental disorders.

Collaboration is necessary in order to obtain all of the tools for combating mental health in sub-Saharan Africa and throughout the entire world.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr