Mental Health Care Underfinanced and Inadequate, WHO Report Reveals

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Mental HealthIn its most recent report, the World Health Organization (WHO) is revealing that the state of world health care in the field of mental health is underfinanced and inadequate. The report suggests that while a tenth of the world’s population has mental health disorders, just one percent of the world’s healthcare workforce covers mental health.

Based on the numbers published in the Mental Health Atlas 2014, the most recent version of the organization’s comprehensive mental health report released this week, WHO estimates that almost half of the world’s population resides in an area where there is less than one psychiatrist per 100,000 people.

According to the report’s findings, while high-income countries, like the U.S., spend an average of US$50 per capita, the majority of funding is being placed in mental hospitals. However, in the Americas, the WHO region in which the U.S. is categorized, there has been a 45% decline in mental hospital beds, with just 6.55 beds available per 100,000 people; in high-income areas, there was a decline of four percent.

Comparatively, the Americas have seen a 63% increase in mental health nurses since 2011 and a one percent increase in psychiatrists. However, for high-income areas, the workforce increase hasn’t been as strong, with just an eight percent increase in mental health nurses and an eight percent decline in psychiatrists.

The data also reveals that high-income countries are reporting the greatest number of suicides among males, with approximately 20 suicides per 100,000 people, but one of the lowest rates among females.

Finally, when it comes to promotion and prevention programs, the Americas are reporting just 31% participation among member nations, the lowest rate of any region.

The report suggests that countries are making progress in developing policies and laws to support mental health care, providing the foundation for further improvements. Having said that, many existing policies require improvements to meet international human rights, are often weakly implemented, and those suffering from mental illness are minimally involved in their creation.

The purpose of the Mental Health Atlas is to provide information and measurements to track the progression of mental health improvements worldwide. In 2013, WHO developed its Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, which aims to strengthen policies and programs for mental health care, provide comprehensive and community-based services in mental health and social care fields, implement new programs to promote and prevent mental illness and suicide, and improve upon information systems and available research to track and improve the state of mental health care worldwide.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Mental Health Atlas 2014, World Health Organization web site, 2015;
“Global health workforce, finances remain low for mental health,” Pan American Health Organization web site, July 14, 2015;