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What Are The Top 10 Facts about Mental Illness? The World Health Organization Helps Us Understand

Fact 1

About 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders

About half of mental disorders begin before the age of 14. Similar types of disorders are being reported across cultures. Neuropsychiatric disorders are among the leading causes of worldwide disability in young people. Yet, regions of the world with the highest percentage of population under the age of 19 have the poorest level of mental health resources. Most low- and middle-income countries have only one child psychiatrist for every 1 to 4 million people.

Fact 2

Mental and substance use disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide

About 23% of all years lost because of disability is caused by mental and substance use disorders.

Fact 3

About 900,000 people commit suicide every year

The numbers reveal that 86% of suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries. More than half of the people who kill themselves are aged between 15 and 44. The highest suicide rates are found among men in Eastern European countries. Mental disorders are one of the most prominent and treatable causes of suicide.

Fact 4

War and disasters have a large impact on mental health and psychosocial well-being

Rates of mental disorder tend to double after emergencies.

Fact 5

Mental disorders are important risk factors for other diseases, as well as unintentional and intentional injury

Mental disorders increase the risk of getting ill from other diseases such as HIV, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and vice-versa.

Fact 6

Stigma and discrimination against patients and families prevent people from seeking mental health care

Misunderstandings and stigma surrounding mental illness are widespread. Despite the existence of effective treatments for mental disorders, there is a belief that they are untreatable, or that people with mental disorders are difficult, not intelligent, or incapable of making decisions. This stigma can lead to abuse, rejection, and isolation and exclude people from healthcare or support. Within the health system, people are too often treated in institutions which resemble human warehouses rather than places of healing.

Fact 7

Human rights violations of people with mental and psychosocial disability are routinely reported in most countries

These include physical restraint, seclusion, and denial of basic needs and privacy. Few countries have a legal framework that adequately protects the rights of people with mental disorders.

Fact 8

Globally, there is huge inequity in the distribution of skilled human resources for mental health

Shortages of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists, and social workers are among the main barriers to providing treatment and care in low- and middle-income countries. Low-income countries have 0.05 psychiatrists and 0.42 nurses per 100,000 people. The rate of psychiatrists in high income countries is 170 times greater and for nurses is 70 times greater.

Fact 9

There are 5 key barriers to increasing mental health services availability

In order to increase the availability of mental health services, there are 5 key barriers that need to be overcome: the absence of mental health from the public health agenda and the implications for funding; the current organization of mental health services; lack of integration within primary care; inadequate human resources for mental health; and lack of public mental health leadership.

Fact 10

Financial resources to increase services are relatively modest

Governments, donors, and groups representing mental health service users and their families need to work together to increase mental health services, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The financial resources needed are relatively modest: US$ 2 per capita per year in low-income countries and US$ 3-4 in lower middle-income countries.


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