Track Session 2.3 Addressing the prevalence of mental health burden
Track Session 2.3
Addressing the prevalence of mental health burden
- Dinesh BHUGRA Professor Emeritus, Mental Health and Cultural Diversity, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London
- Melissa STEVENS Executive Vice President, MI Philanthropy, Milken Institute
- Martin TAN Chief Executive Officer, The Majurity Trust
- CHUA Hoi Wai Chief Executive, The Hong Kong Council of Social Service
Mr Chua Hoi Wai, Chief Executive of The Hong Kong Council of Social Service, moderated a conversation on how we can address the global mental health burden.
Prof Dinesh Bhugra, Professor Emeritus, Mental Health and Cultural Diversity of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London set the context by asserting that it has been a tragedy in the history of medicine that there has been a separation of mental and physical health, when in fact we know that they go hand in hand. In his research, he evaluated the status of basic rights of mentally ill patients (right to marry, right to vote, right to work, right to buy property) across 193 countries and shared that only 40 of these countries allowed all 4 rights. He also highlighted the importance of being aware of cross-cultural differences when we are discussing the challenges and treatment strategies recognising that societies have evolved in different ways, the stigma that creates “otherism” manifests differently, and that there is also a danger in over medicalising normal human emotions.
Mrs Melissa Stevens, Executive Vice President of MI Philanthropy, Milken Institute, brought this to life from a US perspective, citing that 90% of adults in the US believe that the country is experiencing a mental health crisis and that a primary challenge is individuals falling through the cracks as a result of systems – education, child welfare, criminal justice, etc. – not speaking to each other. Mr Martin Tan, Chief Executive Officer of The Majurity Trust, highlighted the Singaporean perspective, focusing on the opportunity for young people – with youth having the highest prevalence of mental health burden, but less than 10% of interventions targeting adolescents in the ages of 10-16. He also shared examples of success from Singapore (e.g., a national campaign to remove stigma and regular engagement with kids affected by hikikomori). Prof Bhugra also explained how there is a difference in prevalence between the East and the West, with the West seeing higher rates of suicide and depression now. He also noted that states that have equality in law have lower rates of psychiatric disorders. Mrs Stevens reflected that it is important for us to centre solutions around the voice of patients as we go forward.
The panel also discussed where philanthropy can come in best. Prof Bhugra highlighted that philanthropists can be the best advocates – bringing evidence to policymakers on the contextual opportunities for addressing mental health, specifically highlighting the commercial determinants of health which are most worrying today such as gambling, alcohol, and processed foods. Mrs Stevens agreed on the need for philanthropy to engage in increasing our knowledge base, also calling out the role of supporting and de-risking drug development as an opportunity. She explained how simple solutions such as deploying grandmas to sit on benches with young people can also create a meaningful difference. Adding to this Prof Bhugra cited the examples of Aunties in Cameroon, barbers and gym trainers who are trained to help facilitate help-seeking behaviour in patients. Mr Tan encouraged philanthropy to explore all solutions, not just those that put us on a “media roadmap” but older, community-based solutions that have proven effective over time. He shared how philanthropic capital can create scholarships and fellowships to incentivise more people to become future mental health practitioners.
Prof Bhugra calls all of us to action, ending this session asserting, “Mental health is too important to leave to the experts, it is everybody’s business.”