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Africa has one psychiatrist to 500,000 persons – WHO

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THE World Health Organisation(WHO) has said that there is one psychiatrist per 500,000 people in the African region.

The Director of Programme Management, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr. Joseph Cabore, said this on Thursday during a virtual press briefing monitored by our correspondent.

According to Cabore, the African region has the highest rate of suicide globally.

World Mental Health Day is commemorated yearly on October 10 to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world.

Cabore said, “Next Monday is World Mental Health Day; this is a public health issue across the world. Unfortunately, in Africa, mental health care had not received the attention it deserved. For instance, millions of people needing care do not have access to services.

“Around 11 out of every 100,000 people die by suicide every year, which is above the global average of nine per 100,000 people.

“It is important to highlight that this situation is partly due to adequate action by the government, policymakers, and communities to address the risk factors that contribute to death by suicide.”

The public health specialist decried the underinvestment by governments in mental health care.

He said governments allocate less than 50 US cents per capita to mental health, on average.

“It’s important to note that mental health care is generally not included in National Health Care Schemes.

“There are grossly inadequate mental health professionals.

“As an example, for every 500,000 people in the African region, there is one psychiatrist. This is 100 times less than what the WHO recommends.

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“To raise awareness about the gravity of suicide and step up advocacy about prevention, we are today launching a social media campaign to reach 10 million people across the region.

“We want to galvanise the support of the government and policymakers to increase focus and funding for mental health programming, including suicide prevention efforts.

“We believe that the campaign will educate the people on the steps to take against suicide.

“Suicide is a major public health problem but a silent epidemic in all regions where much of the public health focus is on infections, disease, and outbreaks. It’s time for a radical change.

“Far too many people who need help for mental health conditions and to prevent suicide do not receive it. These include Ebola survivors; we need psychosocial support in every journey to full recovery,” Cabore said.

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