An Overview of Mental Health Policy from an International Perspective
Donna R. Kemp
There is much to be learned about mental health policy by looking at what has happened in the past in various countries and how that has changed over time and by looking at the similarities and differences in mental health policy in various countries today. An overview of the chapters in the International Handbook on Mental Health Policy reveals some interesting facts and issues concerning the state of mental health policy in the world.
Clearly, one of the major problems for the development of mental health policy in countries around the world is the lack of complete and accurate data on mental health on which to base decisions. All countries, even the most developed, have problems with mental health data. In Italy, the world's largest wine producer, reliable statistics on the incidence of alcoholism on a national level have not been available since the passage of Law 180, and estimates must be made from the rates of alcohol-related diseases ( Ghirardelli & Lussetti, chap. 7). In Israel there are no current data on the extent of mental health problems because data are limited to hospital-admission data and a few clinical research studies ( Yishai, chap. 6). In New Zealand also official data consist of the number of psychiatric patients in hospitals and annual rates of first psychiatric admissions and readmissions. Outpatient visits have not been recorded at the national level, and there is no estimate of what percentage of total mental disorders is represented by the psychiatric utilization rates. Thus, while treatment is increasingly occurring in the community, in many countries no national data reflect mental disorders and treatment in the community. For developing countries, this is a problem of enormous proportions. As the authors of the chapter on Argentina write: "After