Mental health needs greater attention in China and India: Lancet


Treatment options for mental illness in China and India are "grossly inadequate"--athough healthcare policymakers are increasingly taking steps to address stigma and other issues in the two nations that make up 37% of the world's population.

The China-India Mental Health Alliance Series, published in The Lancet, offered detailed looks at areas including autism, depression among the elderly, and schizophrenia, as well as an editorial calling for better care for so-called left-behind children.

"Because mental disorders account for a high proportion of morbidity, detailed knowledge of the mental health status of the populations in these two countries and the evidence-base regarding the treatment of those disorders are of paramount concern," the executive summary to the series said.

"It is hoped that this series will encourage further collaboration between Chinese and Indian mental health research communities to address shared concerns."

Among key findings, the series found that in China fewer than 6% of those suffering from depression, substance abuse and other ailments related to mental health seek therapy. In India, the figure is 1 in 10, the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper noted.

A key reason for the lack of treatment is a shortage of trained professionals. An article on treatment gaps offered detail for both countries.

"There are vast variations across the regions of both countries, with the highest treatment gaps in rural regions because of inequities in the distribution of mental health resources, and variable implementation of mental health policies across states and provinces," the summary of the article said. "Human and financial resources for mental health are grossly inadequate with less than 1% of the national health care budget allocated to mental health in either country."

The scant resources for mental health in both countries are of greater concern as mental health afflictions are expected to rise in the next decade, the Guardian noted.

"Estimates suggest that by 2025, 36.9 million years of healthy life will be lost to mental illness in China (a 10% increase), and 38.1 million in India (a 23% increase)," the newspaper said, adding that dementia cases are on the rise as populations age.

Still, the article on the gaps in mental health services for adults in China and India suggested that steps are being taken to address the crisis and that community-based approaches may work best.

"India and China need to invest in increasing demand for services through active engagement with the community, to strengthen service user leadership and ensure that the content and delivery of mental health programs are culturally and contextually appropriate," according to the summary of the article.

- here's a link to The Lancet series
- here's the story from the Guardian