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How Different Countries Approach Mental Health

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The issue of mental health is complex, influenced by a multitude of factors and different for each individual. Societies across the globe have started to recognize the importance of mental health as a crucial component of overall well-being.

Sweden, often heralded as a leader in healthcare, extends its prowess to mental health as well. The country emphasises a preventive approach, incorporating mental health education in school curricula from a young age. Furthermore, the government provides free or heavily subsidized mental health care, making professional assistance accessible for all citizens.

In contrast, Japan has traditionally taken a more reserved approach towards mental health due to cultural stigma. But recently, Japan has seen an increase in national dialogue about mental health, and the government has implemented initiatives such as the Basic Act on Suicide Prevention, which aims to lower suicide rates and provide support for mental health.

The US, with its diverse population and vast geographical expanse, takes a more decentralised approach. Mental health care access varies greatly between states, often depending on individual health insurance. However, nationwide campaigns and initiatives, such as Mental Health Awareness Month, aim to destigmatise mental health and promote resources for those in need.

India, despite having a high prevalence of mental health disorders, has been struggling with an overwhelming lack of resources. But  the government’s introduction of the National Mental Health Programme and the Mental Healthcare Act 2017 signifies a significant shift towards recognizing and addressing mental health issues.

In Brazil, the Psychiatric Reform of 2001 was a pivotal moment. The reform aimed to replace long-stay psychiatric hospitals with community health services, aiming to destigmatize mental health and provide more inclusive care.

Australia’s approach emphasises early intervention. The government funds a range of mental health services, including Headspace centres which specifically cater to the youth population. Furthermore, with an emphasis on digital health, Australia offers numerous online platforms providing mental health support.

In South Africa, amidst a high prevalence of mental health disorders, resources are disproportionately scarce. The South African government has, however, begun to address the gap by implementing the National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013–2020.

And of course, let’s not forget Bhutan, a small Himalayan nation known for its Gross National Happiness index. This unique approach acknowledges the importance of mental well-being in the overall happiness and prosperity of the country. Bhutan’s healthcare system provides free access to mental health services, and the government has started integrating mental health into primary healthcare.

It is crucial to remember that each country’s approach to mental health is deeply influenced by its cultural, societal, and economic context. Although these diverse strategies vary in effectiveness, they all point to an increasing global recognition of the importance of mental health. The challenge moving forward is to learn from these varying approaches, to collaborate and innovate, and ultimately, create a world where mental health care is accessible, inclusive, and devoid of stigma.

Sandra Tennyson is a global health advocate and freelance writer, known for her engaging articles exploring health and wellness from an international perspective.

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