Mental health is intrinsically related to public health. More than a quarter of U.S. adults suffer from some type of mental health disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

These disorders range from depression and bipolar to more disabling conditions such as schizophrenia. The common disorders of anxiety and attention deficit disorder (ADD) also fall into this category. Tragically, mental health disorders sometimes lead to suicide, with an average of 105 people per day ending their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With so many people affected by mental health disorders, nations around the world have organized efforts to raise awareness and help those suffering. The World Health Organization (WHO), part of the United Nations, is tackling this issue head on. In December 2012, it launched the MiNDbank, a massive database that contains listings of government programs, policies, initiatives, and laws related to mental illness from countries around the world.

Founders of the database cataloging the world’s mental health initiatives hope to spur discussions about better treating mental health. 

Through the database, WHO hopes to promote shared resources and best practices in helping those experiencing mental health issues. The organization says it seeks to encourage research and advocate a holistic approach to treating mental health that also takes into consideration the corollary issues of substance abuse, physical health, disability, and human rights.

Reducing instances of discrimination and abuse faced by many mental health patients represents another goal of MiNDbank founders.

In 2013, WHO announced a Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan that built off the information contained in the database. The plan, which extends through 2020, urges countries to increase available mental health services, update policies, and approach mental health disorders with the idea that people can recover instead of treating patients solely from a medical perspective.

Even in wealthier countries, such as the United States, as many as half of all people with severe mental disorders go without treatment, according to the World Health Organization, making increased awareness vital to helping people reclaim their lives.

What steps do you think are most important for helping people with mental health issues? 

Image by Adriel O. Socrates via Flickr


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