Nearly one in every 10 people has a mental health disorder, but just 1% of the global health workforce are working as psychiatrists, occupational therapists or social workers, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed in a report that highlights deepening inequality in access to mental health treatment.
On average, the world’s poorest countries have less than one mental health worker for every 100,000 people, according to the WHO’s mental health atlas 2014. The report warned that mental health treatment is for the most part a privilege only afforded to people in wealthy countries, which averaged 52.3 mental health workers for every 100,000 people.
Dr Shekhar Saxena, director of the WHO’s department of mental health and substance abuse, deems the massive rift in access to mental healthcare between income brackets intolerable. “The gap is very large and it’s the reason for the neglect of mental health in low- and middle-income countries, which should be unacceptable,” he said.
Poor countries have “extremely limited” access to mental healthcare professionals and services, added Saxena, who said the shortage of mental health workers in low-income countries is “one of the most significant barriers against provision of care for the majority of people”.