Mental Health and Education: Expert Opinion Statement
ROY ABRAHAM KALLIVAYALIL
President, World Association of Social Psychiatry (WASP),
Secretary General, World Psychiatric Association (WPA),
Professor & Head, Department of Psychiatry, Pushpagiri Institute of Medical Sciences, Tiruvalla, Kerala (India)
“Preamble to the constitution of the World Health Organization (1946) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Yet the emphasis has always been on physical health. Mental health has been ignored for too long! This has led to a huge gap in mental health services (sometimes upto 90%) in most countries, minimal investment in mental health (often less than 2% of health budget), poor infrastructure and a huge burden of disease due to mental and substance abuse disorders. This is a near disaster!
80% of the world live in Low and Middle Income (LAMI) countries. Scaling up mental health services in these countries even to the basic minimum may require a number of years, that too only if there is political commitment from the rulers here. Mental health services need an urgent priority!
In the meanwhile, we must focus on giving mental health a prominence through education- in schools, colleges and universities making it a part of the syllabus and essential lessons for the promotion of mental health should be taught and practiced. Psychiatry and mental health also needs a prominent place in medical education and should be a compulsory subject with examination for medical graduation. Thus, our young doctors will be better placed to make early diagnosis and treatment for common mental disorders like anxiety, depression, stress and adjustment disorders. WHO document “Integrating mental health into primary care: a global perspective “(2008) provides the rationale and know-how on successfully integrating mental health into primary health care.”