WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — A new report has found that while mental illness is responsible for more than a third of total disability in the Americas, including the Caribbean, current spending is far below that required to address its public health burden.
The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) as a result of the study is urging countries to increase mental health budgets and allocate spending towards more proven, cost-effective interventions.
The report “The Burden of Mental Disorders in the Region of the Americas, 2018” reveals that countries must increase funding in proportion to the burden of mental illness in order to address the needs of people with mental disorders.
Funding gaps in mental health vary from three times current spending in high-income countries to 435 times the spending in the lowest-income country in the region.
‘While it is clear that large funding gaps exist, much can still be achieved through the reallocation of existing funds towards the integration of mental health into primary care and community resources,” said Dr Claudina Cayetano, PAHO’s Regional Advisor on Mental Health.
“PAHO’s report provides countries with the information and tools required to better respond to mental illness as a global health and development priority,” she added.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, mental health issues, including substance use, account for more than a third of total disability in the region.
PAHO said of this percentage, depressive disorders are among the largest cause of disability, followed by anxiety disorders. Despite this, mental health accounts for an average of just two per cent of country’s health budgets and of this, around 60 per cent is spent on psychiatric hospitals.
“Lower income countries, particularly, compound their lack of resources by allocating already meagre funding to psychiatric hospitals. This means that people with the most common mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and pain disorders, which can all be efficiently managed in the community, are being left behind,” added Dr Cayetano.
PAHO said that investing in psychiatric hospitals is contrary to WHO recommendations, which call for the closure of these facilities, the provision of integrated services for mental illness in primary care or general hospitals, and community treatment plus social support for severely affected individuals.