Asia is the largest continent in the world with a population exceeding 3.5billion. It makes up four of the World Health Organisation’s six regions, and over half the worlds population. A blend of cultures, religions, languages and ethnic groups are draped all over the continents varied terrain and climates.
The basic health care systems across the east and the west are not worlds apart. However, the polarity in the mental health care is vast. The reason for this lop-sided development of mental health care can be traced back to many of the poorest parts of Asia that came under colonial rule. In the 1800s and up to the late 1950s, mental asylums were often situated on the outskirts of cities, often out of sight meant out of mind. Also, the late introduction of psychiatry limited the speed of mental health care development. Therefore, mental health care is by no means standardised in Asia, and it is extremely varied.
The so-called norms of psychiatric care in many economically developed countries may be highly detrimental to mental health care in many parts of Asia. Certain aspects of the UK’s mental health care are taken for granted, such as community care for the mentally ill, social security for the disabled, refuge for discharged mental patients, and free treatments. These are the benefits of the UK’s welfare state.
This type of mental health care is not available in large areas of Asia. A remarkable resilience is shown instead, even if it’s not successful. An existential inner strength is drawn on from ancestral knowledge, and family care alternatives are often the norm. Lama Yeshe, a Buddhist teaching under the Dali Lama, said: “In the West, psychology’s interpretation is too narrow. If someone is emotionally disrupted, you consider that to be a problem, but if someone has a fundamental inability to see reality you don’t. Not knowing your basic mental attitude is a huge problem.”
There has been a serious rise in the diagnosis of mental health issues in the West. Ranging from dementia to bi-polar disorder. Depression is a very serious problem in America and Europe with doctors medicating with anti-psychotics and anti-depressants. In remote parts of Asia they’ve never even heard of such mental disorders, let alone a pharmaceutical to remedy it.
A UK psychiatrist, Graham Thompson said: “It has got to the point where it’s become fashionable to be bi-polar in this country. Wanting a clinical term for feeling down is a trend in some circles. However, serious mental health issues should be treated seriously.”
The NHS also offer a number of different types of support including talking and cognitive therapies, medicines (their favoured), and Specialist care.
In London, the NHS’s new Mental Health Services Programme supports service improvement for the Primary Care Trusts, and Mental Health Trusts. Examples like, the Care Programme Approach and the Personality Disorder Services.
The National Health Service’s website for South West London displays a most disconcerting statistic: “One in four people will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their lives, whether that’s stress, depression, anxiety or other conditions.”
Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain with almost 9% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis.
The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric report 2001, claims between 8-12% of population experience depression in any year.
Perhaps, we need to diagnose the cause of these disorders rather than the symptoms. We are too quick to label mental health problems.