Addressing Hidden Challenges

According to latest global health data, 792 million people have some form of mental health disorder, and especially higher among females. 264 million people live with depression and 284 million people live with anxiety disorders. With considering any mental health with substance use disorder, it effects 970 million people globally. These conditions (such as, depressive disorders, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, autism, substance use, etc) are among leading causes of disability globally.

It is estimated that 50% of US persons will experiences some form of mental health conditions in their lifetime. Many of these conditions substantially increases the risk for self-harm and suicide, which is the top 10 leading causes of death in the US. It is estimated that more than 12 million adults have had serious thoughts of suicide. In 2020, 26.3 million adults received virtual mental health services in the past year. Many increasingly uses alcohol or drugs to cope with stress or self-medication.

While there are variety of etiological factors that contribute to mental health issues, complexities of these interconnectedness are influenced by environmental, social, behavioral, biological and genetic factors. In addition, interconnectedness between mental health and chronic medical comorbidities could not be under-stated. Many shares common etiological factors as well as adverse health outcomes, which poses challenges for health care providers who are often not well equipped to deal with mental health issues.

At broader population level, psychiatric and substance use disorders are stigmatized and significantly under-reported. Most people with mental health conditions never received adequate and culturally/linguistically appropriate treatment. Social, familial and cultural factors influence both the expression and experiences of psychological and psychiatric issues. Yet, our existing health care systems in a super-specialized systems makes it enormous difficult for those needed to disclose and seek treatment for mental health issues.

At IPHS, we leverage interdisciplinary and translational approaches to reframe mental health. First, we need to expand the clinically defined mental health disorders to a broader dimensional approach to mental health. Second, we must align evidence from social, biological, developmental disciplines. Third, as with WHO’s proposal, we need to cement the principles of considering mental health as a universal and undeniable human right.