Mental Health Is a Human Right

Clinical Psychiatry News, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Mental Health Is a Human Right


World Mental Health Day comes around every October. This year, the theme adopted by the World Federation for Mental Health is "The Great Push: Investing in Mental Health."

The current magnitude of the problem of worldwide mental illness, according to World Health Organization (WHO), is staggering. The WHO estimates that about 450 million people worldwide suffer from a mental or behavioral disorder; nearly 1 million people commit suicide every year; and one in four families has at least one member with a mental disorder. The cost of mental health problems in developed countries is estimated between 3% and 4% of gross national product.

Mental illness is both an economic and financial drain. It leads to higher medical, pharmaceutical, and disability costs, more absenteeism, and loss of productivity at work. In an effort to address some of these issues, the WHO is undertaking several projects, such as the Global Campaign for Suicide Prevention. The WHO also is developing guidelines for mental health intervention in emergencies, and for management of depression, schizophrenia, alcohol-related disorders, drug use, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders.

As those of us who treat mental illness know, depression is the No. 1 illness among our patents. Worldwide, more than 150 million people suffer from depression at any point in time, 1 million commit suicide every year, 25 million suffer from schizophrenia, 38 million suffer from epilepsy, and more than 90 million suffer from an alcohol- or drug-related disorder. This growing burden amounts to a huge cost in terms of human misery, disability, and economic loss. Physical illnesses also are associated with major depression. According to the WHO, the prevalence of depression in hypertension is 29%; myocardial infarction, 22%; epilepsy, 30%; stroke, 31%; diabetes, 27%; cancer, 33%; and HIV/AIDS, 44%. …

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