1) 70% of mental health cases can be found in low income countries
2) 34% of people surveyed in Nigeria think that mental health is caused by drug problems
3) 12% of people surveyed in Nigeria think it is due to witchcraft
Even in Westernised countries, mental health is often ignored as physical ailments are given more focus and support. In developing countries mental health is often passed off as a weakness, with funding and staff next to nonexistent. In Nigeria alone, there are only 200 mental health professionals to cover the entire population. Of course this means that hundreds of thousands of citizens are left ignored and helpless with no understanding of their own mental health.
“Being honest about how we feel doesn't make us weak - it makes us human”
- Sangu Delle
As Vikram Patel describes in his TED Talk ‘Mental Health for All by Involving All’, even in countries with the best resources, the life expectancy gap can be as much as 20 years less for the people with mental illnesses and suicide is still the leading cause of death in young people in all countries. Throughout the entire world, there could be at least 400-500 million people with mental health issues. In Europe, around 50% of citizens don't receive the mental health support that they need. In developing countries the figure is around 90%.
Worldwide Prevalence of Diagnosed Clinical Depression.
Source: Max Fisher, Washington Post
In Zimbabwe there are only a dozen mental health professionals. In one area there are only a couple left to cover the nine million people living in the countryside. In India alone there are only around 3000 mental health professionals. The World Health Organization (WHO) launched the worldwide initiative, Project Atlas, in the early 2000s in order to catalogue mental health resources around the world. Their first survey showed that 41% of countries have no mental health policy, 28% don't have a set aside budget for mental health, and 37% have no community health care facilities at all.
An Imam recites verses from the Koran through a megaphone in an effort to 'heal' patients with mental health problems in Mogadishu, Somalia
Photo by Robin Hammond/Panos
The ‘big three’ communicable diseases - HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB - often overshadow mental health issues. A review by the World Health Organisation shows that high-income nations, such as the USA, on average spend 5% of their total health budget on mental health. In middle and low-income countries, less than 2% of the health budget goes towards mental health. According to Kalina Kalyan’s article Mental Illness in Developing Countries: Moving Forward, “developing countries face a number of non-communicable diseases as well, which further use up funds that could be shared with mental health programs”, including respiratory diseases from smoking, cardiovascular disease due to obesity, as well as the rapid growth of diabetes.
There is now, however, emerging evidence that mental illness can now be managed even with limited funding in developing countries. As Kalyan discusses in her article, “Indonesia is developing a model in which primary care centers provide at least some screening for mental health with a referral system that will send urgent and extreme cases to available doctors”. In Haiti and Rwanda, Harvard professor Dr. Fabiola has created programs in which psychiatrists train local nurses and health workers so that they can diagnose and help treat mental health conditions in their home areas.
There's no shame in taking care of your mental health - Sangu Delle (TED Talks)
Mental Health for All by Involving All - Vikram Patel (TED Talks)
Mental Illness in Developing Countries: Moving Forward - Kalina Kalyan
The Prison of Mental Illness in Indonesia - Jon Emont