A Global Look at Mental Health in Honor of World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day was first established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1992 and is now observed on October 10th of each year. This year’s theme is “Mental Health Care for All: Let’s Make it a Reality.” As we continue to work through the global COVID-19 pandemic, it seems a fitting time to learn about some innovative mental health efforts that are taking place in other countries, how mental health is treated and viewed, and share some resources that can help us all invest in our mental health during this globally unusual time in history.

Global Mental Health Overview

While it is difficult to be certain about mental health data, the Institute for Mental Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that approximately 10.7% of the global population deals with some mental health disorder. Some specific numbers from that same estimate include depression at (3.4%), anxiety disorders (3.8%), bipolar disorder (0.6%), and alcohol use disorder (1.4%). If accurate, the overarching 10.7% equates to 792 million people dealing with mental health challenges globally.

Highlighting Some Mental Health Efforts Around the World

In many ways, the mental health challenges experienced in other countries are not dissimilar to the United States. Mental health stigma, inequitable and/or limited access to healthcare, and variations in treatment, and cultural perception all play into the quality-of -care people receive as well as how willing people are to seek treatment and provide support for others.

While every place in the world has ways they can improve access to research-backed mental health practices and public campaigns, today we are going to mark just a few of the efforts that are taking place in a few countries around the world to improve the care of our human global village.

China: China’s National Planning Guideline for the Healthcare Service System includes promoting treatment for those with serious mental health disorders, increasing mental health education, improving mental health systems and services, and aiming to license 40,000 psychiatrists and assistant psychiatrists by 2020.

India: In an effort to increase access to mental health care for young people, Indian organizations PATH and Fondation Botnar recently launched the Advancement of Mental Health of Young People (SAMYP). The genius of this effort is that it is aimed at creating digital mental health solutions to meet young people in ways that are more far-reaching and culturally relevant.

United Kingdom: The National Health Service (NHS) is a tax-payer-funded healthcare system that provides free mental health services to anyone in the country. Some services require a referral from the individual’s doctor. The UK is also at the forefront of some exceptional mental health care initiatives for veterans through Combat Stress: For Veterans Mental Health. The UK also has organizations that have heavy public backing by the Royal Family such as the Heads Together Campaign and Shout, a mental health crisis text line.

Uganda and Zambia: The continent of Africa is home to some of the world’s most difficult circumstances for women in terms of peri/postnatal treatment, assault/lack of physical safety, and threats to their children. Not surprisingly, the estimates of depression in African women can be as high as 20-25% under a government that spends less than 1% of its budget on mental health care. Enter StrongMinds, a program that is aimed at providing interpersonal group therapy to vulnerable groups over a 12-week period. Between 2014-present it is estimated that they have provided care for approximately 90,000 women.

Brazil: As early as 1990, Brazil took aim at reforming its mental health care. Some results of that effort include tripling “psychosocial healthcare centres” coverage, changing federal funding patterns to increase community-based care, and designating people with mental disorders as full-rights citizens.

Finland: While we can’t cover every country, we’ll end with the Nordic country of Finland. Despite being known as “the world’s happiest country,” they have similar rates of mental health diagnoses. However, they also have a public healthcare system as well as strong public health campaigns that have resulted from past issues such as high suicide rates in the ’80s and ’90s.

One notable project is TUULI, aimed at supporting psychoeducation and mental health promotion in newly arrived refugees to Finland.

As we celebrate World Mental Health Day, this is just a quick glimpse into a world that has a long way to go to support people in their knowledge and support during mental health difficulties. However, it is also a world that is making efforts to provide these desperately needed services in creative ways. May the global village continue to improve year after year to get everyone the support they need in these challenging times.

October 8, 2021. By Anne Rulo, Author, Speaker, Therapist. FB/IG/Twitter @annemrulo

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