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Mental illness, suicide and violence creating lost generation in the Middle East

New research highlights the need for funding and training of public health practitioners


There has been a sharp increase in non-communicable diseases and mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Depression and anxiety disorders were the most common mental conditions, according to a study led by Ali Mokdad of the University of Washington in the US. The research is part of a special supplement on The state of health in the Eastern Mediterranean Region 1990-2015, which is published in Springer's journal the International Journal of Public Health.

Mokdad and his team discovered that mental disorders contributed to nearly 11 million years lived in less than ideal health, also known as years lived with disability (YLDs). The problem is exacerbated by the lack of both mental health practitioners and funding for services.

Moreover, the study showed that throughout the region, the ratio of practitioners to 100,000 people was about seven on average and was as low as 0.5 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in countries such as Libya, Sudan, and Yemen. By comparison, among European nations the ratio ranges from nine per 100,000 to more than 40.

Further analysis in the study showed that in 2015, nearly 30,000 people in the region committed suicide and another 35,000 died from interpersonal violence, representing increases of 100% and 152%, respectively, over the past 25 years. As a comparison, in other parts of the world during the same period, the number of deaths from suicide increased 19% and interpersonal violence by 12%.

"There must be a comprehensive plan to build on existing expertise and projects addressing health challenges that exist at the nexus of human health, environmental resilience, and social and economic equity," said Mokdad. "This study clearly indicates that the future health of the region is in danger."


Reference: Mokdad, A. et al (2017) The Burden of Mental Disorders in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 1990-2015: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease 2015 Study, International Journal of Public Health DOI: 10.1007/s00038-017-1006-1

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