According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health problems are on the increase all over the world. In recent times, the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and increased use of social media have been implicated. On the contrary, some believe that the increase in mental health problems is a myth. Especially before the emergence of patchy COVID-19 data and the increase in self-reporting were blamed for a mythical mental health epidemic that was, anyway, difficult to assess.
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This article takes a look at some of the statistics and finds that mental health issues appear to be on the rise, and substantial investments are currently recommended to avoid a looming crisis.
Mental health: a growing concern?
There are many types of mental illness, ranging from common conditions such as anxiety and depression that affect millions of people around the world, to less common disorders such as Capgras syndrome – most commonly seen in people with the disease. of dementia or schizophrenia, this syndrome causes the patient to irrational believe that someone they know has been replaced by an impostor.
It is believed that around 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health problem each year in England. The numbers have increased in recent years. For example, the number of people with a common mental health problem increased by 20% between 1993 and 2014.
Suicide and self-harm are also on the rise – although a dramatic increase since 2018 for UK statistics is in part due to changes in the way deaths are reported, meaning more deaths are now officially recorded as suicides compared to the past.
Having a diagnosable mental health problem can impact all areas of life – school, work, personal relationships, and the ability to participate in the community. A person’s diagnosis can also change several times over the course of their life.
What are the most common mental illnesses?
Some of the most common mental health problems include:
- Clinical depression –a more severe form of depression where the sufferer may feel sad persistently for weeks or months. Other symptoms include loss of joy, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, low self-esteem, loss of appetite, and problems sleeping.
- Depressive disorders ––affect millions of people around the world every year
- Anxiety –intense and persistent worries and fears, avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations. In acute cases, can lead to phobias and panic attacks
- Bipolar disorder —extreme mood disorders. The disorder consists of two types; Bipolar I which involves episodes of mania and depression and Bipolar II where the victim has more frequent periods of depression with fewer less severe manic episodes
- Schizophrenia –a serious long-term illness often characterized as a type of psychosis. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, confused thoughts, poor personal hygiene care, avoidance of others
- Substance abuse –affects millions of people around the world – it becomes a disorder when intoxicating substance users struggle with control, coercion and withdrawal
- Post-traumatic stress disorder –caused by a past stressful event which is then relived, sometimes years after it occurred. Symptoms include depression, loss of focus, mood, temperament, sleep, energy, and control
- Dementia –decline in brain function and impaired thinking, memory and reasoning
Who do mental health problems affect the most?
Mental health issues are indiscriminate and can affect anyone. A good way to think about mental illness is to think of a spectrum – we are all sitting somewhere along the continuum. Some groups are more likely to be affected than others. According to the statistics-based Mind charity for people living in England, the groups most affected are:
- People who identify as LGBTIQ –– are 2-3 times more likely to have a mental health problem
- Black or black Britons ––23% will experience mental health problems within a week, compared to 17% of white Britons
- Women aged 16 to 24 ––26% in any given week
- Those with overlapping issues such as substance use disorder, homelessness, and contact with the criminal justice system –– approximately 40%
Causal risk factors for mental health problems include:
- Inequality and social disadvantage
- Discrimination and social exclusion
- Traumatic experiences
- Differences in physical health
In addition, according to the WHO, around 20% of children and adolescents have a mental health problem. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds (WHO). Alarmingly, research indicates an increase in internalizing symptoms in girls – internalizing symptoms have a basis in distress-related emotions such as fear and sadness which can exacerbate depression, loneliness, loneliness, loneliness, etc. anxiety and somatic complaints (eg, headache and stomach ache).
The costs of mental health
WHO has signaled that substantial investment is urgently needed to ensure:
- Increased awareness of mental health –– more understanding and less stigma
- Access to quality mental health care and treatment
- Research to improve existing treatments and identify new ones
Among the most common mental health problems are depression and anxiety. The cost to the global economy of depression and anxiety alone is US $ 1 trillion each year and yet government spending on mental health is only less than 2% (WHO).
Although mental health problems are on the increase, it is wrong to think of it as an epidemic. As Rice-Oxley (2019) put it, “This is not a disease of Western capitalism.” But that being noted, it is nonetheless possible to treat many mental health issues at relatively low cost. There is a large gap between those who need care and those who have easy access to it.