Mental Health: A Leading Cause of Disability
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Mental Health: A Leading Cause of Disability

Photo by:   Marcel Strauß on Unsplash
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Miriam Bello By Miriam Bello | Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst - Wed, 11/24/2021 - 11:06

Mental health problems are among the 10 leading causes of disability in both developed and developing countries. In particular, depression is ranked third in the global burden of disease and is projected to rank first in 2030.

Alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety and dementia make up 20 percent of lost healthy days. Globally, only an estimated 10 percent of people who need attention or treatment for mental health problems receive it, according to PAHO. Those facing mental health also struggle with stigma and discrimination, according to the UN.

The economic cost of mental health problems is vast. Poor mental health is both a cause and a consequence of poverty, compromised education, gender inequality, ill-health, violence and other global challenges. It impedes the individual’s capacity to work productively, realize their potential and make a contribution to their community.

Alongside stigma and affordability, United of Sight describes three other barriers. The first being limited availability of medication and health professionals, particularly in developing countries. Mexico has around 4,600 psychiatrists throughout its territory but according to Jeremy Cruz of the Mexican Psychoanalytic Association, the country would require 12,000. “Going by the minimum statistics of the WHO, 6,500 are needed. We have a significant deficit of psychiatrists,” said Cruz to El Economista.

Coupled with this, patients in nearly 20 percent of countries do not have access to at least one common antidepressant, one antipsychotic and one antiepileptic medication in primary care settings, according to United for Sight.

The second barrier is policy limitations because psychological disorders are not covered by insurance policies in many countries, making mental health care unaffordable for many people. One-third of the world’s population lives in countries that allocate less than 1 percent of their health budget to mental health. Furthermore, 31 percent of countries do not have a specific public budget for mental health.

In 2018, middle- and high-income countries allocated 2.4 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively, of their health budget for mental health, according to WHO and PAHO. From 2013 to 2021, Mexico allocated, on average, 2.1 percent of the SSA budget. 2021’s budget would allocate MX$3.031 billion (US$143 million), 2.1 percent of the total SSA, to mental health. This is 9.6 percent less compared to 2013 and 0.1 percent less than that approved in 2020, according to CIEP.

Finally, lack of education is the third barrier for mental health care, according to United for Sight. Cristina Raunich, CMO, Terapify, told Mexico Business News that poor education is linked with stigma and taboo, placing a further burden on healthcare providers. “As providers, we need to share educational content to create awareness of the importance of mental health so people are more comfortable to ask for help,” she said.

Digital tools are among the most popular strategies to address mental health care. Terapify, for example, offers online mental health consultations, mindfulness, yoga and other complementary tools.

Photo by:   Marcel Strauß on Unsplash

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