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World Mental Health Day: Treatment Remains a Challenge Around the World

World Mental Health Day: Treatment Remains a Challenge Around the WorldYou generally don’t hear much about people who have cancer who fail to get treatment. Cancer is the kind of incentive that makes getting treatment, let’s just say… a priority. You also don’t generally hear about people with other chronic concerns — whether it’s diabetes or Parkinson’s disease — who either don’t seek out treatment themselves, or get denied treatment from their public health system.

Yet, around the world every day, hundreds of people die unnecessarily from untreated mental illness. In the United States alone, we lose at least 90 people each and every day due to untreated depression via suicide. That’s about 33,000 people a year, give or take — or about 1 in every 16 minutes.

That means while you’re browsing around the Internet in this session, watching your funny YouTube videos or updating your Facebook status, a few people will have died that didn’t need to. Kinda makes you think, no?

What is it about mental illness that makes people believe their concern doesn’t need treatment? What is it about untreated depression that makes people believe they’re not at risk for death because of it??

The World Health Organization (WHO) helps bring into focus these numbers:

WHO reports the majority of people in the world do not receive treatment for mental illness. Figures show up to 50 percent of people suffering from mental disorders in Europe and North America do not receive treatment, and up to 85 percent of people in developing countries do not receive treatment.

Could you imagine what kind of outcry we’d be having if this were something like cancer in the U.S. or Europe? Or diabetes?? Instead, what we have is a Zone of Silence surrounding the under-treatment of mental illness in the U.S., where few people are willing to admit there’s a problem. And fewer still willing to do something about it.

It gets even more depressing, according to WHO:

The World Health Organization’s “Mental Health Atlas 2011” surveys 184 countries. It finds one in four people will require mental health care at some point in their lives. Yet, globally, less than $3 per capita per year is spent on mental health. And, in poor countries, that figure is as low as 25 cents.

I blog for World Mental Health Day

And it’s even more depressing in third-world countries, where, according to WHO, an entire country of millions of people might have a single psychiatrist working. How’s that for progress?

On World Mental Health Day, I’m not sure there’s much of an answer. In a challenging world economy, few governments have any additional money to spend on helping to improve the mental health care of their citizens.

Yet, we know the cost of untreated mental illness is staggering and a little mind-blowing. For instance, in the U.S., the cost of untreated mental illness is at least $193 billion per year and in Canada it’s at least $51 billion annually. If you added up all the world’s economies, it wouldn’t surprise me if annual costs of untreated mental illness approaches $1 trillion per year.

The World Health Organization is calling on governments around the world to more adequately fund treatment for mental illness, and we endorse that call. It not only makes good sense to help increase the welfare and well-being of your citizenry, it also helps increase your economy and reduces your overall health care costs in the long-run.

Psych Central endorses an increase in services and funding for such mental health services around the world. It’s a simple equation that only a selfish idiot would ignore.

Read the full article: WHO: Treatment for Mental Health Inadequate and Under-funded

World Mental Health Day: Treatment Remains a Challenge Around the World

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). World Mental Health Day: Treatment Remains a Challenge Around the World. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 10 Oct 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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