Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mental health needs outweigh resources in Middle East

According to the 2008 report issued by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), the best way to change the stigma associated with mental illness is advocacy. The document is intended to provide communities, patients, families and healthcare professionals with the tools to make a difference as part of World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10, 2008). It also paints a grim picture of the support services available to the 450 million people who suffer from mental illness around the world; nearly 12% of the world's population.

Despite the overwhelming number of people affected, mental illnesses such as depression, dementia and schizophrenia, as well as mental health services and the promotion of mental well-being, do not receive the same attention and funding as other disorders and health issues. Services in the developing world, including the Middle East, are poor, especially because of the pervasive stigma associated with mental illness, with people who suffer from them, their families, and the institutions that are meant to help.

The report states that that the responsibility for change lies with governments, Ministries of Health, NGOs, consumers, caregiver organizations, private hospitals, community centers, media, patients and their families.

According to the report, mental disorders are linked to other health concerns that there can be no health without mental health. Examples of such associated diseases are cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, HIV infection, maternal and child health, accidents and injuries.

In order to raise awareness about the need for change and improvement in the mental health domain and in people's perception of mental illness throughout the region; global drug maker, Eli Lilly and Company - Middle East Affiliate worked with the World Federation of Mental Health to sponsor the translation of the report to Arabic and to make it accessible to all the communities across the Middle East and the North African regions.

By translating this report, the empowering messages and direction it provides are now accessible to doctors, people involved in the mental health field, as well as patients and their families. This is a very practical guide with useful information that can help everyone speak in a unified voice about the need for improved services and advocate for greater community involvement.

In addition to the stigma associated with mental illness, the report also identifies other barriers that advocacy can help overcome. This includes: the absence of mental health from public health agendas and its implication for funding; the current organization of mental health services; the lack of integration within primary care; the inadequate human resources for mental health; and the lack of public mental health leadership.

A recent multi-country survey that was supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that 35-50% of serious cases in developed countries, and 76-85% in less-developed countries had received no treatment in the previous 12 months.

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