Global Finances, Workforce Low for Mental Health

Global Finances, Workforce Low for Mental HealthGlobal Finances, Workforce Low for Mental Health

Worldwide, nearly 1 in 10 people have a mental health disorder, but only 1% of the global health workforce is working in mental health. This means that nearly half of the world’s population lives in a country where there is less than one psychiatrist per 100,000 people.

Huge inequalities in access to mental health services exist depending on where people live. On average globally, there is less than one mental health worker per 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization’s Mental Health Atlas 2014, released on Tuesday. In low and middle-income countries rates fall below 1 per 100,000 people, whereas in high-income countries the rate is 1 per 2,000 people.

The report states global spending on mental health is still very low. Low and middle-income countries spend less than $2 per capita per year on mental health, whereas high-income countries spend more than $50. The majority of spending is going to mental hospitals, which serve a small proportion of those who need care. High-income countries still have a far higher number of mental hospital beds and admission rates than low-income countries at nearly 42 beds and 142 admissions per 100,000, reports the WHO website.

Training of primary care staff in mental health is critical to building capacity for recognizing and treating persons with severe and common mental disorders. Since 2011, the number of nurses working in mental health has increased by 35%, but shortages still exist in all disciplines, particularly in low and middle-income countries.

The atlas finds countries are making progress on creating policies, plans, and laws for mental health, which provide the bedrock for good governance and service development. Two-thirds of countries have a policy or plan and half have a stand-alone mental health law. However, most of the policies and laws are not fully in line with international human rights instruments, implementation is often weak, and persons with mental disorders and family members are frequently only marginally involved in their development.

In 2013, WHO launched the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 with four objectives including strengthening leadership and governance for mental health; providing comprehensive mental health and social care services in community-based settings; implementing strategies to promote and prevent mental health; and strengthening information systems, evidence and research.

The atlas provides the baseline data to measure progress on the action plan targets. The 2014 edition is the fourth and newest, with data on the availability of mental health services and resources across the world, including financial allocations, human resources and specialized facilities for mental health from 171 countries.