New Delhi: One third of the global burden of mental illness falls on China and India, where a vast mental health treatment gap exists, according to a recent study.
China and India, which together contain 37% of the world’s population, are both undergoing rapid social change. 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 China-India Mental Health Alliance comprises experts from both countries and elsewhere who have worked to produce a collection of systematic reviews based on extensive literature searches of both international and national databases.
It is hoped that this series will encourage further collaboration between Chinese and Indian mental health research communities to address shared concerns.
The study is one of the three papers that mark the launch of the China-India Mental Health Alliance, a long-term project bringing together experts from China and India to look at the current status of mental health and mental health services in both countries.
It found that in China, less than 6 percent of people with common mental health disorders (mood or anxiety disorders), substance use disorders, dementia and epilepsy seek treatment.
Among people with psychotic disorders, 40 percent have never sought treatment from mental health professionals.
In India, only about 1 in 10 people with mental health disorders are thought to receive evidence-based treatments.
Both countries have very few trained mental health professionals, poor access to mental health services (especially in rural areas), low investment, and high levels of stigma which may prevent people from accessing services.
Less than 1 percent of the national healthcare budget in either country is allocated to mental health care.
The authors say that community engagement, increased support for community health workers and collaboration with traditional and alternative medicine practitioners are key to providing more accessible, affordable, and acceptable mental health care in India and China.
With a combined population of over 2.5 billion, China and India make up 38 percent of the world population. The aim of the Alliance is to identify evidence-based solutions to their shared problems. These three papers are the first of several publications to be released over the coming year.
The study appears in the Lancet and The Lancet Psychiatry.