International views on mental illness

What is it like for people with mental illnesses in other countries? To the dismay of many, it can often be treated as a myth or joke. Sometimes, it is not taken seriously until it is far too late. So the question is, does the general view on mental illness differ by country? Do citizens get the help they need right away or is it hidden away? Do people have to live in pain due to their government and population being under the false impression that mental illnesses don’t exist?

One of four people in the world will be affected by mental disorders.

the world health organization (WHO)

To make matters more complicated, even though treatments are available, nearly two-thirds of these people with a known mental health issue never seek help from professionals. There are many differences regarding the way mental illness is seen and treated when it comes to each country. Something concerning mental illness that is similar in all countries is that its victims tend to be women more than men.

According to the American Psychological association, people in America are starting to feel more comfortable with opening about mental health

In America, about 1 of 5 people have mental illness of some sort—varying from ADHD to severe depression. Some people have the privilege of seeing a doctor, getting diagnosed, and receiving medication and/or therapy. As seen in the graph from the American Psychological Association above, most of the American population, especially as generations continue, believe that those who are diagnosed with a mental illness have no reason to be ashamed. Therein lies the issue: many suffer in silence. One of the most common reasons preventing those who suffer from mental illness from receiving help or diagnosis is the backlash expected and the shaming of a family. Some parents or guardians have the impression that it would bring down the value or power of their family if someone suffering from an illness such as depression or bipolar disorder. They may associate it with being a bad thing, not wanting people to see them as different, or as a damaged family. Another reason can be that the family is unable to afford the help they need. Being unable to receive proper treatment due to money issues can lead to dangerous futures for victims of mental illness and their family members. In hospitals that treat such illnesses, they attempt to create activities or programs that help the patients cope with everyday life.

According to Children’s Society, most people with mental illness are not seeking help

In a way, Canada and America’s views on mental health are similar. Mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, or substance addictions are largely recognized and treated. Although, Canadian citizens must get a hold of insurance of some sort and healthcare to get treatment. This healthcare is provided to all Canadian citizens, regardless of racial or ethnic background or income; this is the opposite of America, where citizens must pay for their healthcare individually. Less than 10 years ago, mental health was ignored by many citizens, and many had to go on about their lives without the ability to receive the correct treatment. Attempting to get a better understanding and assist all of the victims of mental illnesses will be a slow process, but as the years go by, treatment is getting better and better. Studies from the Canadian Mental Health Association have disclosed that mental illness indirectly affects all Canadian citizens at some time in their lives, whether it be through a family member, friend, or other. Yearly, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness, regardless of age, education, income, or culture. By age 40, about half of the population will have or have previously had a mental illness.

Furthermore, it seems that there is an unusually large amount of mentally ill people in France. According to The Local, the country’s psychiatry services are thought to be overwhelmed, resulting in a lack of treatment for the citizens of France who suffer from mental illness, sometimes serious. The patients also are forced to leave the hospital earlier than recommended due to a shortage of beds. This then leads to their re-admission. The French psychiatric system is sinking, and there is not enough care for patients. The population is also rising, and due to a lack of alternatives, some are driven to mental hospitals. One in five French people suffers from mental disorders, including depression, autism, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Budget issues also contribute to unsatisfactory mental hospital performance. Foundation de France states that about 3 million French people suffer from serious mental illnesses. The disorders that are chronic and progressive come with exclusion issues. This causes there to be a stigma around mental illness, with negative images and stereotypes persisting and stigmatising the mentally ill.

According to the mental health charity called Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem each year in the United Kingdom. 1 in 6 experience common ones, such as anxiety or depression, every single week. The overall number of people who suffer from mental health issues has not changed drastically in recent years; however, the stress in regards to things like money, jobs, and benefits can make it extremely difficult for people to cope.

There are a various symptoms that occurs in response to mental illness (source)

Additionally, the way that people tend to cope with mental health problems is getting worse—the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts continues to increase. A survey is done every seven years to find out how common certain mental disorders are across the United Kingdom. The data from the last iteration conducted in 2016 showcased that 5.9 in 100 people are dealing with anxiety, 3.3 in 100 people suffer from depression, 2.4 in 100 people have phobias, 1.3 in 100 people are diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, 0.6 in 100 people suffer from panic disorder, 4.4 in 100 people have post-traumatic stress disorder, and 7.8 in 100 people deal with mixed anxiety and depression. It was also found that 20.6 in 100 people suffer from suicidal thoughts, 7.3 in 100 people from self-harm, and 6.7 in 100 from actually attempted suicide. Mental illness is prevalent in the United Kingdom. In regards to actual treatment, approximately 1 in 8 adults dealing with a mental health problem can receive the treatment they need. Medication is the most common type of treatment.

Ultimately, mental illness is viewed differently depending on the country. In America, it is so common that many people view it as the norm. There are many programs to help people suffering from these brain-altering illnesses. Many people think mental illness is not a shameful thing and should be treated with care. Sadly, mental illness in children in the United States can, unfortunately, be seen as ridiculous or as a burden by some parents and many are unwilling to seek help.

In Canada, it is quite similar; but unlike the U.S., they are covered by the countrywide healthcare system, rather than having to pay for treatment costs individually. There remain, of course, some issues that prevent certain people from receiving treatment—however, the system improves with time. In France, budget and care issues prevent people from getting the treatment they deserve. There is a growing population and the amount of mentally ill citizens is, sad to say, extremely large. There is a stigma around them and it can cause them to unfairly be seen as bad people. In England, although it is not the majority of the population, many people suffer from mental illness, but not many receive the treatment they need. Even though countries’ governments and citizens all have differing opinions on mental illness, the fact is that it negatively affects a large portion of the world’s population every single day.

If you ever feel alone regarding this topic, here’s a video to help you out!

No matter what skeptical people believe, mental illness is very much real and it can physically change the brain’s wiring. Without proper treatment, it will continue to linger and cause people’s lives to be extremely difficult, or, in some cases, so unbearable to the point of suicide. But its clear that in almost every country the views on mental disorders are all similar in some way. Each one having different medical policies but similar ways of trying to help. While some families refuse help or are in total denial of the ordeal others are in, only a handful of people speak up and try to get the help they need. Either ways, people from all around the world are going through the same thing, just handling the situation in different ways. Just know that you are never alone =).

Author: Hyun Ju

Hyun Ju Lee is currently a senior and this is her second year being part of The Eye. She is a Korean that was born in Boston, but raised in Singapore since she was two years old. She can be contacted at lee46856@sas.edu.sg

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