Mental illness is not a personal failure. In fact, if there is failure, it is to be found in the way we have responded to people with mental and brain disorders.” – Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO.
Mental disorders: A global picture
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual from APA and the 5th chapter in the International Classification of Diseases from WHO – lists out the diagnostic criteria for diagnosing mental illness. These manuals at its 5th and 11th edition currently has gone through multiple revisions and updates to present the mental health issues in a fairly comprehensive manner. According to the disease burden reports, mental illness such as depression contribute significantly to the Years Lost due to Disease (YLD). The prevalence of mental diseases are quite alarming with a life-time prevalence of any kind of mental illness at a rate of 1 out of every 4 people. That is, nearly 25% of the population is suffering from some kind of mental illness.
All these data are incomplete due to the hindrances in data collection including language and communication barriers, flaws in methodology and coverage. But apart from that, the conceptualization of mental illnesses are grounded in a heavily biomedical framework. Also, criticisms arise regarding how these disorders are conceptualized based on the research comprising of western population, particularly that of America. For this reason, many new diagnostic manuals with novel conceptualizations are coming up.
But that said, people who suffer from mental health issues are no way going to be lesser than the existing count. It is in this time when mental health is essentially a global emergency that we need to understand about the resources we have to combat this collective handicap.
The resources: The reality
According to WHO (2015), mental health workers account for only 1% of the global health workforce. Among this 1%, 43% include nurses, 8% are Psychiatrists, 7% are Psychologists, 3% are social workers, 1.5% are occupational therapists and 33% are others. Around 45% of the world’s population lives in a country with less than one psychiatrist per 100,000 people. Only about half of the member states of WHO has a foundational legislation or policy regarding mental health. All this points to the necessity for sufficiently trained human resources in this area.
Studies conducted by WHO reports significant gap in the number of mental health professionals in high income countries as against low and middle income countries. Considering how the prevalence rate of most disorders are almost the same across the globe, it’s alarming that in many low and middle income countries, the available human resources in mental health area is quite less than that of the recommended minimum. On the whole, mental health services are 50 times less accessible in low and middle income nations than wealthier nations.
The mental health services, especially with regards to the human resources involved seems quite inadequate. With the growing rate of mental illnesses and skyrocketing suicide rates, the existing number of professionals are not sufficient to meet the growing demands. Apart from this, in many of these nations, the mental health professionals are often underpaid. Worst still, is the under qualified people working in the field. In many countries there is a lack of strong governing bodies to monitor these things. The future rests in addressing all these issues and hassles. The intervention has to happen simultaneously at all levels- from grass roots to canopy- so as to ensure better mental health care for everyone.