UN warns that resources to tackle mental health problems are ‘grossly insufficient’

10 October 2005

Global resources for people suffering from mental and neurological disorders are grossly insufficient to address the growing burden of mental health needs, according to a new report by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) released today.

Published to coincide with the observance today of the International Day of Mental Health, WHO’s Mental Health Atlas 2005 shows no substantial change in global mental health resources since 2001 and a growing gap between allocations in high and low-income countries.

The survey of 192 countries shows that Europe has 9.8 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in Europe compared to just 0.04 in Africa.

The Atlas notes that many countries continue to spend only a very small proportion of their total health budget on mental health. One fifth of the more than 100 countries supplying figures to the survey spend less than 1 per cent of their health budget on mental health. This is in stark contrast to WHO's estimate that 13 per cent of all disease burden is caused by the wide range of neuro-psychiatric disorders.

“The new Atlas findings reflect the ongoing reality that the world still considers mental health care as a low priority within public health,” said Dr. Benedetto Saraceno, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. He called for public health planners and decision-makers to “take the mental health needs of their populations more seriously.”

This year’s observance of the Day is focused on raising awareness of the need for systems of treatment and care to be responsive to individuals throughout their lifespan.

In his message marking the occasion, Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that each stage of life brings different challenges and different needs. “Recognizing and addressing these differences can improve the health and functioning of individuals and families, and contribute to building successful communities,” he said.

According to WHO, 450 million people worldwide are affected by mental, neurological or behavioral problems at any time, and about 873,000 people die by suicide every year.

 

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