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1 in 8 people lives with mental disorder globally, says WHO

In the first year of the pandemic alone, the rates of the already-common conditions such as depression and anxiety went up by more than 25 percent. Picture: Total Shape/Pixabay

In the first year of the pandemic alone, the rates of the already-common conditions such as depression and anxiety went up by more than 25 percent. Picture: Total Shape/Pixabay

Published Jun 17, 2022

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Geneva - About one in eight people in the world lives with a mental disorder, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a landmark report released on Friday, calling for urgent action on transforming mental healthcare.

Even before Covid-19, in 2019, the number of people living with a mental disorder was nearly a billion, including 14 percent of the world's adolescents, a number that has been exacerbated by the pandemic in the last two years.

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In the first year of the pandemic alone, the rates of the already-common conditions such as depression and anxiety went up by more than 25 percent.

The WHO report revealed that on average, countries dedicate less than two percent of their healthcare budgets to mental health.

As a result, just a small fraction of people in need get access to effective, affordable and quality mental health care.

The report urges mental health decision makers and advocates to step up commitment and action to change attitudes, actions and approaches to mental health, its determinants and mental healthcare.

"Everyone's life touches someone with a mental health condition. Investment into mental health is an investment into a better life and future for all," WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

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The report also called for an end to stigma, discrimination and human rights violations against people with mental health conditions, with 20 countries still criminalising attempted suicide.

It noted that globally, there may be 20 suicide attempts to every one death, and yet suicide accounts for more than one in every 100 deaths. It is a major cause of death among young people.

Mental disorders are also the leading cause of years lived with disability (YLDs), accounting for one in every six globally.

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Schizophrenia, which occurs in approximately one in 200 adults, is a primary concern: in its acute states it is the most impairing of all health conditions.

Besides affecting the quality of life, mental health conditions also have "enormous" economic consequences, with productivity losses significantly outstripping the direct costs of care, the report said.

"The inextricable links between mental health and public health, human rights and socioeconomic development mean that transforming policy and practice in mental health can deliver real, substantive benefits for individuals, communities and countries everywhere," Tedros said.

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The report urges all countries to accelerate their implementation of the Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013-2030.

It makes several recommendations for action, including stepping up investments in mental health, reducing risks, building resilience and dismantling barriers that stop people with mental health conditions from participating fully in society, and diversifying and scaling up care options for all mental health conditions.

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