We all feel the stress of the times in which we live in. But for people living in situations of economic insecurity, conflict, natural disasters, food insecurity, political instability, or daily human rights abuses – conditions that take an immense toll on a person and community – mental health often goes unaddressed.

Even before COVID-19 entered the world stage, mental and addictive disorders affected more than 1 billion people globally. But, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in low- and middle-income countries, 75 percent of people with mental health conditions receive no treatment.

There are many reasons for this, says the global health organization PATH – one being stigma, which discourages people from seeking diagnoses and care. To bypass stigma, PATH is integrating mental health screening and services into already established routine medical visits. For example, in Mozambique, PATH collaborated with the Maternal and Mental Health Departments at the Ministry of Health to develop a protocol within routine postnatal care to screen and care for women with postpartum depression. They’ve also incorporated mental health care into existing HIV services in Vietnam and Kenya. By integrating mental health questions and conversations into routine visits, PATH says it becomes less about specific mental health issues and more about holistic care.

Low- and middle-income countries often also face a shortage of health-care workers. Even where there are enough health workers, lack of access to mental health care training is often an obstacle, according to PATH. This leads to low detection rates and a low prioritization of mental conditions. That’s why Americares not only deploys mental health experts to provide psychological first aid to survivors of disasters and emergencies, but they also train health workers to recognize and refer patients who need mental health support.

With low prioritization of mental health also comes lack of funding to sustainably scale proven interventions and service delivery models. In fact, less than 1 percent of health-related global development assistance has ever gone to mental health, according to several studies.

Read the full article about the need for mental health programs by Joanne Lu at Global Washington.