Breaking the Taboo: Mental Health in the Asia-Pacific
Perspectives towards mental illnesses vary greatly across the Asia-Pacific. At one extreme, countries like Australia and New Zealand have invested considerable resources to build frameworks for mental healthcare. On the other end of the spectrum, countries like India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Pakistan face many challenges such as the lack of available medical treatment, dilapidated facilities, and critically low numbers of mental health professionals. In between, although countries like China and Thailand have made significant progress in tackling mental health in the last decade, many problems still remain. In China, with 20,000 psychiatrists for a population of 1.4 billion, around 92% of an estimated 173 million people in China suffering from mental disorders go without care. Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development identified depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal behavior and substance-abuse disorder to be the five leading mental health problems in the region.
The widespread tendency to stigmatize and discriminate against people with a mental illness leaves talking about mental health taboo. In recent years, there have been concerted efforts in Asia-Pacific countries to raise awareness and to establish legal and policy frameworks around mental health issues. In contrast with more Westernized models of mental health, which prioritize the individual, the more family-oriented cultures in Asia-Pacific countries demand a different approach.
In this panel, we will discuss the issue of mental healthcare and its associated stigma in the Asia-Pacific as well as analyze the progress that has been made, in recent years, by the combined efforts in Asia-Pacific countries to raise awareness and to establish legal and policy frameworks around these health issues.