The launching of the iPhones 8 and X and the advent of genomic-based precision medicine for disease treatment and prevention, are new reminders that technological innovation is fueling momentous change in our daily lives. Indeed, as Professor Klaus Schwab, the chairman of the World Economic Forum describes, the physical, digital and biological trends underpinning what he calls 'the fourth industrial revolution', are unleashing changes “unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”
She was seven when she survived a night of horror. Her home in Nigeria was marked for an attack that night for belonging to the ‘wrong’ ethnic group. My friend and the rest of her family were destined to be killed.
But she survived. Her neighbors who noticed the mark alerted them and helped them escape at a time when their other neighbors were being executed and even burned alive. That night, my friend saw a man die in very violent circumstances. The shock was so intense that she could not speak for two weeks.
People not only have to deal with the physical and biological impacts of an illness, but also with the social and cultural stigma that accompanies it.
This was what Bhoomi and his family went through before they benefited from the Tamil Nadu government’s Mental Health Program (TNMHP).
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) crisis ended more than a year ago in Liberia. It resulted in over 10,000 cases and 5,000 deaths. For many children, the crisis continues through intrusive memories of illness, isolation, and death. These memories are particularly acute for the children directly affected by Ebola; those that were quarantined, separated from family during treatment, or orphaned. The Liberia Ministry of Health (MOH) identified 3,091 such children, and a World Bank working paper calculated that approximately 4,200 Liberian children lost one or both parents to Ebola.
Thirty-year old Vijaya (name changed) spent 10 years of her life not talking to anybody. Her parents were daily wage laborers, scraping together a sparse living in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu. Unaware of any treatment, and afraid of being stigmatized or shunned by their community, they did not disclose their daughter’s illness to anyone. Instead, Vijaya suffered in silence, confined to the house, and hidden from public view.
It was only when the Tamil Nadu government’s Mental Health Program (TNMHP) reached out to their community that Vijaya’s life underwent a dramatic change. After six months of working with the program’s community facilitators, Vijaya’s parents took her for treatment, and within a year, the young woman began interacting with others more frequently.
Poor mental health places a huge burden on individuals, families, and society. From developed countries to emerging market economies, mental disability – ranging from common mental disorders such as depression to severe mental illnesses and retardation – has profound impacts on people’s economic and social well-being.
As cited in “Out of the Shadows: Making mental health a global development priority” in 2010 alone, depression cost an estimated US$800 billion in lost economic output. What’s worse, these costs are expected to double by 2030.
This year’s World Health Day carries a particular significance for me and for many others. The theme, “Depression: Let’s Talk,” shines a light upon a problem that oftentimes remains hidden in a dark corner of our minds, trapping us in a painful agony of sadness, loss of interest, and fear.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally more than 300 million people suffer from depression. However, less than half of these affected seek and get help. In addition to stigma surrounding depression, one of the biggest barriers why people are unable to seek and get help is the lack of government spending worldwide for mental health services. “According to WHO’s “Mental Health Atlas 2014” survey, governments spend on average 3% of their health budgets on mental health, ranging from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries.”
Mental health needs to be at the forefront of the humanitarian and development agenda, in order to achieve the set Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments around the world must scale up their investment in mental health services, as the current commitments are inadequate. The study published by “The Lancet Psychiatry” calls for greater investment in mental health services. “We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and wellbeing; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense too,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “We must now find ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live.”
Mental health has a crucial role in the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. However, to date most research and practice has focused on the role of mental health post-violence, and intimate partner violence (IPV) prevention is relying on public health models that do not explicitly include mental health. Yet, key concepts, processes, and competencies in the mental health field appear essential to successful IPV primary prevention.
Erwadi is known for its 550-year-old Badusha Nayagam Dargah—“Erwadi Dargah,” one of the biggest shrines in India. Every day, numerous devotees of different faiths visit the shrine from surrounding villages, states, and countries. Among these visitors is a large number of people who suffer from mental illness and have come to pray for a cure. Some of them see the Dargah as their first and only hope—guided by the magico-religious belief that illness is caused by the possession of evil spirits or the performance of wicked magic—while others have turned to the shrine as a last resort after receiving ineffective treatment.
When I visited Erwadi Dargah in 2013 and met with a team working on a local program called District Mental Health Project (DMHP), an important partner of the World Bank-supported Tamil Nadu Mental Health Project, they expressed an urgent need to help the devotees affected by mental illness. Their subsequent discussions with representatives of the shrine revealed a lack of information on potential treatment options and strong resistance to medical interventions among the devotees. At that time, the team knew of a similar circumstance in another part of India—the state of Gujarat—so they invited the representatives of Erwadi’s religious community to learn from peers in Gujarat about complementing religious rituals with medical treatment.
And thus started a unique experiment called “Dawa-Dua,” or prayer-treatment.
Armed conflict and violence disrupt social support structures and exposes civilian populations to high levels of stress. The 2015 Global Burden of Disease study found a positive association between conflict and depression and anxiety disorders. While most of those exposed to emergencies suffer some form of psychological distress, accumulated evidence shows that 15-20% of crisis-affected populations develop mild-to moderate mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). And, 3-4% develop severe mental disorders, such as psychosis or debilitating depression and anxiety, which affect their ability to function and survive. If not effectively addressed, the long-term mental health and psychosocial well-being of the exposed population may be affected.