According to a report by World Psychiatry, South Asian countries comprise one-quarter of the world’s population and approximately 150–200 million people in this region have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder and limited access to mental health.
Despite the significant burden of illness and growing international emphasis, the mental health infrastructure in this region is relatively weak, with less than 1% of the total national budgets allocated to it. There is also a shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, clinical psychologists, as well as social workers. Pre-COVID-19 estimates reveal that nearly US$ 1 trillion in economic productivity is lost annually from depression and anxiety alone.
This ongoing pandemic isn’t doing the world a favour either. A survey by WHO estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide while the demand for mental health is increasing. The twin terror of a pandemic in a region where mental health issues are rampant and improperly dealt with, could spell disaster for a country in ways more than just the economy. In addition to the limitations in resource allocation, the lack of community awareness toward mental health and prevailing stigma further limits the number of patients that actively seek health care.
What is the state of solutions available for mental health issues in Southeast Asia? How do we tailor our solutions to properly suit the region? What opportunities do stakeholders have to make a significant impact?
To answer these questions, I speak to Dr Kanpassorn Eix, Founder of Ooca, for her expert insights on the significance of mental health in Asia and the innovative solutions in the region.