Mental Health Around The World


Social-cultural diversity across the globe is reflected in differing approaches to mental illness. This article will explore both perceptions and support in developing and developed states, and what additional progress can be made.  

United Kingdom

Tackling mental health illnesses has received increasing coverage by media and medical authorities in the UK. Treatment has become more advanced, particularly when compared to the global norm, yet current measures to tackle mental health remain insufficient.

NHS statistics indicate that 25% of all adults in the UK will suffer from mental health problems during their lifetime, with depression representing the largest and most difficult to treat mental health illness faced by Brits. Young adults, aged 16 to 24, are most commonly affected, and the NHS has consequently recently developed a range of treatments to attempt to address these concerns.

In the wake of the 2015 election, the Government pledged £1.25billion to mental health services by 2020. The NHS plans to use these funds to improve existing services, while introducing greater community-based schemes, to reduce waiting times and work to lift the stigma against mental health illnesses by creating a platform for individuals to feel comfortable discussing any issues they face.


Traditionally, mental health has been a low priority within the Russian health system, with little evidence of discernible progress. Although legislation has given mental health illnesses greater treatment since 1993 reforms, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has indicated that mental health treatment predominantly remains based through institutions, with 279 psychiatric hospitals across Russia.

Treatment within institutions is inadequate, and those who do not respond well to initial treatment can be admitted to long-term social care institutions, where they can be held indefinitely. In December 2013, The Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia complained to the World Psychiatric Association regarding mental healthcare in Russia, and warned that conditions in hospitals often lead to civil rights and physical abuses directed against patients.

Government legislation has seen a limited transition towards community based programmes, particularly since the inception of NGO’s into the region. Further downsizing of the hospital sector is essential to encourage confidence raising issues at a community based level. However, given the current political climate, further reform appears unlikely.


Treatment offered to those suffering from Mental health conditions in China is often inaccurate, impractical and insufficient. Culturally, mental health remains highly stigmatised in Chinese society, a regional prejudice, and China consequently ranks amongst one of the worst states globally for treating those with mental health issues. 

WHO studies have found that fewer than 1% of the national health budget is allocated to mental health care, with individuals consequently prevented from accessing appropriate treatment through a lack of trained mental health professionals and poor access to services. While the core problems – anxiety and depression – remain constant globally, treatments offered to sufferers of mental illnesses provide markedly less effective cures.

Poor mental health facilities have only reduced life-spans in China. The WHO has estimated that between 2015 and 2025, the number of healthy years lost to dementia will grow by 56%. Only increased funding, and a regional overhaul of cultural stigmas, will reform. 

United States

Mental health treatment in the United States, although a multi-million dollar industry, is still not sufficient to provide care for those who need it. Cost is often a barrier in the US health system, restricting more expensive treatments to those who can afford to pay or have relevant cover under their insurance plan.

Access to experts continues to be a continuing problem. Around 89.3 million Americans live in areas designated as having a shortage of mental health professionals, and many states cut money from their mental health budgets during the last financial crisis. The Guardian’s 2014 investigation found that many families living with someone affected by a mental illness were forced to pick up the cost themselves due to a lack of accessible treatment.

Recent legislation has improved protections for those suffering from mental health concerns. The Obama-era Affordable Care Act requires all insurers selling compliant plans to include coverage for mental health treatments, while a 2008 law banned employee insurance programmes from imposing additional cost barriers for mental health treatment.


Chile’s health system is regarded as one of the best performing in South America, and has been ranked alongside European countries. Mental health treatment, however, is still a developing area. Although mental disorders are highly prevalent, with the WHO predicting that 31.5% of the population will suffer from a psychiatric disorder in their lifetime, around 60% of the population that is expected to have a mental health disorder does not receive any form of treatment.

A National Mental Health plan, implemented in 2000, brought about major improvements to mental care and an increase in community based support, but recent research has found that around 80% of Chileans suffering from a mental health disorder have not been diagnosed. Among OCDE countries, Chile also has some of the highest rates of both suicide and mental illness.

The 2000 plan suggested that the Chilean Health Ministry should spend around 5% of its budget on providing mental health care, yet figures for 2012 suggest that only 2.16% of the department’s budget was dedicated to this.


In Libya, the effect of widespread human rights violations over the past four decades has been felt by much of the population. Recent research by the Danish Institute Against Torture (Dignity) found that nearly one in three suffers from depression.

With little access to international aid or medical support, many Libyans are relying on friends, local doctors or religious leaders for treatment. Some even self-medicate with heroin or cocaine to try and ease the trauma.

Mental illness is often stigmatised in Libya, to the extent that some consider it a consequence of paganism. Many mental health professionals fled the country during the unrest of 2011, and aid organisations have struggled to encourage them to return.


Deputy Editor 2017-18, International Editor 2015-17. Languages graduate interested in Latin America, world news, media and politics.

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