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Letters

LETTERS: Cost of poor mental health on economic growth

stressed man
There is need to change the perspective on mental disorders. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Waking up to new murder cases every day has become our new normal in Kenya. It is scaring to even attempt parading numbers here. All people are in danger regardless of gender and age.

The state of Kenyan society, moral and value system is a matter that should be urgently debated with a view to finding lasting solutions. Mental health is a possible contributing factor to the current status.

It is estimated that worldwide one in every four people will be affected by mental disorders at some point in life with around 450 million currently battling mental disorders.

In the middle-income countries, over 50 percent of general population are likely to suffer at least one of the over two hundred mental disorders at some point in their lives. From the stated statistics mental disorders should be treated as a major health challenge and handled with the seriousness that the issue deserves.

The consequences of unaddressed mental disorders cost economic growth a big deal. Research has shown that one poor mental heal day in a month per person contributes to 1.84 percent drop in the per capita real income growth rate resulting to less total income each year.

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The figure varies in rural and urban set-ups. It is further estimated that global economic cost of mental illness is expected to be more than $16 trillion over the next 20 years. This is more than the cost of any other non-communicable disease.

In quantifying the economic costs of mental disorders, experts use human capital approach that sets apart both direct and indirect costs. Direct costs cover issues like buying medicine, specialists visits, medication, physician visits, counselling sessions and admission in hospital.

On the other hand indirect costs are the invisibles income losses due to death, care giving expenses, man hours lost due to absence and early medical related retirements. The two costs are estimated to be at US$2.5 trillion globally and are expected to double by 2030.

There is need to have the population and policy makers change their perspective around mental disorders. There is a tendency to view it as a personal failure and therefore should be treated as a personal challenge. Policy makers at both national and county levels should make informed and strategic choices in order to bring out positive change around how people view mental disorders.

Most mental and behavioural disorders can be prevented and those that exist can be successfully treated.

There is need to make cure and treatment affordable so that those affected can live productive lives and contribute to economic development.

Research has shown than close to 50 percent of all countries in the world allocate less than one per cent of their total health budgets to mental health and most of them having limited medications that treated majority of mental disorders.

In the midst of many competing priorities, the policy makers should not forget to allocate sufficient budget for mental disorders and also push for strong legislation.

The psychiatrist/citizens ratio is very low making it difficult for those with mental disorder to have sufficient professional services. There is need to provide scholarships for more psychiatrist to be trained.

Creating safe psychological spaces for those with mental disorders is also very important so that they can be safe with themselves and rely on their own ability to self-protect against any destructive impulses.

Kellen Kiambati, management consultant and lecturer at Kenyatta University.

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