Everyone needs to focus more on mental health care, but Africa has a larger gap in available help for those with mental health issues. Nigeria and Ethiopia have a major treatment gap with people who have mental illness that do not get care at an all time high of over 90%. South Africa’s at 75%. That is basically saying that almost nobody there is able to get the help they need. In a continent as large as Africa, this is a terrifying statistic because it is the world’s second most populous continent with more than 1.2 billion people living there.
Poverty Levels and Mental Health Care
One of the biggest challenges to getting treatment for mental health is poverty, and this is not just in Africa, but around the globe. In certain countries in Africa, governmental leaders sometimes overlook how important mental health care is and whether this is because of lack of knowledge, stigma, or financial issues, the results are all the same – those who need the help are just unable to get it.
Infectious Diseases and Mental Disorders
More research has been done recently to encourage making mental health care a priority and it has shown that people in Africa who have untreated mental illnesses are more likely to become infected with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis or HIV. And a study done in Ethiopia found that those with untreated severe mental health disorders like depression and bipolar disorder died 30 years sooner than those without mental illness. This may be because of the poverty levels of those who have mental illnesses also means that they are not able to get physical health care either.
Poor People or Poor Choices?
However, it is more likely that those with mental illnesses that are not treated make poor choices, leaving them more susceptible to infectious diseases and death. In addition, those with HIV have been found to be twice as susceptible to suffer from depression. This may be an immune system issue as there has been a link between mental illness and a challenged immune system.
Health Insurance Coverage
A lot of the issues surrounding Africa and mental health includes health insurance because most people who live there do not have any. The high poverty levels make physical and mental health care a benefit that many just cannot afford. And unlike other places, there are not as many low-cost clinics or free clinics to provide mental health care to those who need it but cannot afford it. What the government does not seem to understand is that this lack of treatment is hurting the continent as a whole, not just those who need the help.
Mental Health Action Plan
The World Health Organization (WHO) has enacted a Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan to target certain countries, including many of those in Africa. This plan integrates laws to update mental health care policies, which will help with research, mental health care insurance, and treatment for those who need it. The plan also encourages overall mental health care and new laws that prevent discrimination or human rights violations of those who are suffering from any kind of mental health disorder.
Online Mental Health Care
One of the best ways to help those who need it and cannot afford traditional therapy is with online mental health care with BetterHelp. Their costs are a fraction of what traditional face to face psychologists normally charge. They have over 2,000 licensed professionals who are experienced in all types of mental health care who are able to help anyone at any time 24/7 and you do not even need an appointment. In fact, you do not even have to leave your house.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.