Like all countries, the number of Lao citizens who suffer from mental health issues are abundant. However, due to the lack of treatment options readily available to patients, 41,000 people in Laos live with their mental health issues untreated.
Socio-economic development is vital to the improvement of people’s daily lives, but also heightens the risk of mental health issues due to the increased pressures of modern existence. A psychiatrist has explained that mental health issues can be triggered or provoked by things such as socio-economic difficulties and other mental burdens, along with inadequate access to diagnosis and treatment.
At a workshop themed ‘Mental Health in Laos’ earlier this week, programme manager of the Basic Needs project and a practicing psychiatrist, Dr ChantharavadyChoulamany, stated that the biggest obstacles in providing a solution to the mental health struggles in Laos, is due to the lack of resources for effective treatments.
Dr Chantharavady went on to explain that mental disorders affect nearly 12 percent of the world’s population, an estimated 450 million people, and that one out of every four people globally will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives.
Statistics have shown that 70,000 people in Laos have reported mental health issues, but due to inadequate personnel, facilities and financial resources, only 29,000 of those people have access to treatment and mental health services.
Dr Chantharavady added, “According to a survey by Basic Needs, anxiety disorders rank first with a rate of 33 percent followed by schizophrenia with 19 percent, epilepsy at 14 percent, psychosis due to infectious diseases 8 percent, depression 3 percent, substance/alcohol abuse 0.7 percent, dementia 0.5 percent, and mental retardation 0.1 percent.”
People suffering from mental illnesses not only have to battle the disorder itself, but with the stigma from society as well. They are not only discriminated against, marginalized and shunned in their own community, but in some cases, are subjected to emotional and physical abuse in both mental health facilities and by the public. Inadequate quality care due to lack of qualified health professionals and dilapidated facilities could possibly lead to further deterioration of their mental state of mind.
Currently, there are just two hospitals that provide mental health units, Mahosot Hospital and 103 Military Hospital, amassing over 27,000 cases.
During this year’s World Mental Health Day on October 10, the World Health Organization will be raising awareness in communities with the aim of ensuring that people with mental health conditions can continue to live with dignity, with the theme “Dignity in Mental Health”.
According to WHO, it does so through the promotion of human rights-oriented policy and law as well as training of health professionals, respect for informed consent to treatment, inclusion in decision-making processes, and public information campaigns.