Updated on 10 October 2016
Prof. Dinesh Bhugra, president World Psychiatric Association
Singapore: In Asia, suicide is among the top three causes of death in the population aged between 15 and 34. A recent study by the world Health Organization claims that around 12 billion working days - or 50 million years of work - will be lost to mental illness each year from now until 2030. The study, published in the journal Lancet, also elaborated that a failure to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety is costing the global economy $925 billion (£651bn) a year in lost productivity.
Almost ten per cent of the global population - around 740 million people - now suffers with a mental disorder. Depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 350 million people affected. Though these figures are staggering, Asian nations have not jumped into action to solve this crisis. Currently, governments spend an average of just three per cent of their health budget on nation's mental health and building a mentally fit society.
Also another major cause of concern is that the available mental health services tend to be urban-centred and hospital-based, leaving the rest 80 -90 percent of populations with no access to proper treatment. People labelled as mentally ill are the worst victims of social violence; mainstream society still fails to acknowledge their suffering as a valid human experience that requires attention and support. Once people are labelled as mentally ill, as far as society is concerned, their civil and human rights are suspended for ever. They are exposed to discrimination that results in a non-human identity and damaged personality.
Despite global advancements, mental health issues are still somewhat of a taboo subject in Asia. They are associated with weakness, guilt, and shame. In many Asian countries like India and China there is a widespread belief that mental illness is a punishment for the ancestors' misdeeds or possession by a evil spirit, effectively shaming several generations of the family simultaneously. In order to build a mentally healthy society it is important to rebuild an environment that acknowledges, accepts, and wants to help those with mental disorders and illness.
BioSpectrum Asia Magazine recently spoke to Prof. Dinesh Bhugra, president World Psychiatric Association, on Asia's mental health scenario and the challenges faced in treating mental illness. Professor Bhugra is also the Emeritus Professor of Mental Health & Cultural Diversity, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London.
Please check below for excerpts: