onsider what it would be like to live with an illness that isolates you from your family, friends and community—and for which treatment may not be available.
This is a reality for many people who experience mental illness in the Asia Pacific region.
According to new independent research from the Economist Intelligence Unit—released today to coincide with World Mental Health Day—up to 20% of adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness each year, but more than half of these people will never receive medical treatment.
My brother was fortunate enough to receive quality medical care for schizophrenia, so the report's finding touched on an issue that is close to my heart.
Sponsored by Janssen Asia Pacific, as part of our Healthy Minds program, the report looks at efforts to implement mental health policies in 15 countries and territories across the Asia Pacific region. Among its findings:
There’s universal support for greater access to resources. The report found there is a desire across the region to improve access to mental health resources—to move away from the days when patients were simply institutionalized toward services that allow people to remain integrated in their communities and live more meaningful lives.
Despite that support, success varies widely among countries. Positive progress is largely related to national wealth. So for those suffering from mental illness, where they live dictates the level of care they have at their disposal.
Stigma against mental illness remains pervasive. This is especially true for severe conditions like schizophrenia. The report notes that failure to address this stigma will undermine progress toward integrating people into their communities.
Mental illness doesn’t just take a social toll. Even in the best-performing countries—Australia and New Zealand—mental illness reduces gross domestic product by 3.5% and 5%, respectively, due to factors such as treatment costs and lost workplace productivity.
As a society, there is much we can do to address the report’s findings, and some of the region’s successful programs can offer a pathway for change in countries around the world. Australia’s “Don’t Be Left in the Dark” campaign, for example, is designed to provide information about schizophrenia—an often-misunderstood condition.
Janssen Healthy Minds programs like this can go a long way toward helping to strengthen health systems, tackle stigma, educate the public and reduce the burden of mental illness on society.
On World Mental Health Day and every day, all families deserve the support that mine has been fortunate enough to receive.