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Mental Health Stigma: “20% of people in Southeast Asia suffer from mental health problems”

Dr. Sumedha Kushwaha

Mental Health Stigma: Mental health problems are becoming increasingly prevalent in Southeast Asian Region, and they pose a significant challenge to the region’s development and stability. A World Health Organization (WHO) report found that nearly 20% of people in Southeast Asia suffer from mental health problems and that the region has the highest rate of depression and anxiety in the world.

Mental Health Stigma

In our region, mental health problems are often stigmatized and misunderstood, making it difficult for people to seek help. Many people in need are also unable to access quality mental health care, due to a lack of trained mental health professionals, limited resources, and inadequate health care infrastructure.

Mental health problems can affect individuals regardless of gender. However, research has shown that the prevalence and manifestation of mental health problems can differ between males and females. For example, depression is more common among women, while men are more likely to experience substance abuse and antisocial personality disorders.

Women are also more likely to experience anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while men are more likely to experience attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and an autism spectrum disorder. 

Poverty linked to mental health

One of the key causes of mental health problems in Southeast Asia is poverty. Other factors include stress, trauma, and social isolation. In addition, conflict and displacement caused by war and political instability also contribute to the increased prevalence of such problems. 

Overcoming the problem

There are several solutions that can help address the mental health challenges in Southeast Asia. 

  • One of the most effective approaches is to increase access to quality mental health care. This can be done by training more mental health professionals, such as psychologists and psychiatrists, and by investing in mental health infrastructure. 
  • Governments in the region can also work to improve the mental health care system by strengthening primary care services, strengthening the policy framework, and increasing funding for mental health research. 
  • Reducing stigma is another critical step that can be achieved through education and awareness campaigns that promote understanding and acceptance of such problems, which can be done in partnership with Community Partnerships. 
  • Community-based programs can also help to increase access to mental health care in rural and remote areas, where access to mental health services is often limited.

The author is based in Toronto, Canada, and works as a researcher for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Ontario Tobacco Research Unit.

(Views expressed above, solely belong to the author)

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