Mental Health: Global effort sought


Experts around the globe are calling for a joint effort to tackle the worlds leading cause of suffering and disability - mental health disorders.

Nearly 450 million people have mental health disorders and more than three-quarters live in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), eight in every 10 of those living in developing nations receive no treatment at all. Many are the survivors of infectious diseases, natural disasters and war. In Afghanistan, most families have lost one or more member during the countrys 30 years of conflict. And it is estimated about half of Afghans over 15 years of age have mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Outside of the countrys capital Kabul there is no mental healthcare system....

Mobile help

A global mental health action plan is now being drawn up. The Canadian government has said it will give nearly $20m to support 15 new projects designed to improve mental health diagnosis and care in developing countries. The projects, led by Grand Challenges Canada, will tackle issues that can lead to mental illness, such as alcohol and substance abuse, as well as delivering solutions like counselling and health promotion.

One project will use mobile phones to deliver instant and accessible support to Nigerian women suffering from postnatal depression. Another will use local health networks and telemedicine to help Afghans with mental health conditions.

Dr Peter Singer, of Grand Challenges Canada, said: There is very little funding for mental health innovations in low- and middle-income countries, where mental illness is the most neglected of many neglected diseases. Its a terrible denial of human potential....