Mental Health, Worldwide

HandsWhile mental health is an issue being pushed to the forefront of American culture, it is still not recognized everywhere in the world. Many societies refuse to believe in mental illness, and therefore shun anyone who exhibits signs of a disorder. Other places tend towards things like demonizing the suffering individual and hiding them away from their peers. It is an unfortunate practice, as those who need help are not getting it. This is especially true in underserved countries and for people like refugees. It is no wonder in such places that mental health professionals are hard to find, but it is in dire situations that such professionals are necessary. This is why the World Health Organization and the World Bank have decided to move mental health on to their global agenda.

The two groups recently met in Washington to discuss the state of mental health in the world, and realized that it was an untreated epidemic in many places. Refugee communities especially are suffering. People in such communities are forced to leave their homes, and tend to suffer from psychological distress as a result. Many refugees suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. Mental health counseling would improve the quality of life immensely for individuals in such situations, yet nobody has thought to act on the fact until now.

Apparently, this recent decision by the World Health Organization and the World Bank came at the same time as a release of research on investment opportunities for depression and anxiety treatment programs. The research showed that investing in these programs could have a sizable return, making it a high gain investment without much risk involved. This conclusion is based on other worldwide treatments that have been successful in the past. A tool called OneHealth was used to estimate the cost and return.

Mental health has not been entirely absent from the developing world, however. In the past, individual groups have attempted to raise awareness of mental health to underserved populations. Mental health workers have traveled to countries ravaged by disease or natural disaster in an attempt to help the people in the midst of crisis. Individual aid groups have also developed treatment programs for women and men who have suffered some kind of sexual abuse. However, mental healthcare in developing countries has never been taken on by well-known health organizations. This could be a giant step forward for the mental health community worldwide.

While it is unclear how much this focus on mental health was spurred by a potential return on investments, spreading mental health care to refugee communities and developing countries is important. It will improve the quality of life all over the globe, and signifies another step toward eradicating the stigma surrounding mental illness for good.

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