Sound investment needed for sound mind

October 17, 2011

One in four people will require mental healthcare at some point in their lives, but in many countries — only two per cent of all health sector resources are invested in mental health services. About 80 percent of people with serious mental disorders living in low and middle income countries like Bangladesh do not receive mental health services they need.
Experts urge to increase investment in mental health to bridge the substantial gap between the burden caused by mental health disorders and the resources available to prevent and treat them.
The figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) Mental Health Atlas 2011 indicate that average global spending on mental health is less than U$3 per capita per year, and as little as 25 cents per person per year in low-income countries.
Today, nearly 70 per cent of mental health spending goes to the institutions. If countries spent more at the primary care level, they would be able to reach more people, and start to address problems early enough to reduce the need for expensive hospital care, suggested experts from WHO.
The Atlas highlights other imbalances. Good mental health services focus equally on providing patients with a combination of medicines and psycho-social care. In lower income countries, however, shortages of resources and skills often result in patients only being treated with medicines. The lack of psycho-social care reduces the effectiveness of the treatment.
Resources to treat and prevent mental disorders remain grossly insufficient. Statistics from WHO reveals that almost half of the world’s population lives in a country where, on average, there is one psychiatrist (or less) to serve 200,000 people and many low-income countries have less than one mental health specialist per one million population.
Mental health policies should not be solely concerned with mental disorders, but should also recognise and address the broader issues which promote mental health. This includes mainstreaming mental health promotion into policies and programmes in government and business sectors including education, labour, justice, transport, environment, housing, and welfare, as well as the health sector.
Mental health is an integral and essential component of health and investing in mental health is crucial. A populous country like Bangladesh should prepare to make rapid advancements in scaling up care through its national health programmes.

-With World Health Organisation/The Daily Star input

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