Building peace in the minds of men and women

80% of mental patients can now be cured

The greatest public health problem In the world today is mental ill health. It fills more hospital beds than cancer, heart disease and tuberculosis combined. For every patient in a mental hospital at least two others are living outside, neither sick enough to be hospitalized nor well enough to live a healthy, happy life. 

Figures are not available on the total amount of mental disorder in the world, but in countries with well-developed health services about half the number of hospital beds are occupied by psychiatric cases, and one third or more of the out-patients at large general hospitals attend for complaints traceable to psychological causes. In Europe nearly two million people are in hospital with mental illness. In the U.S.A. 600,000 are hospitalized, and one person in sixteen suffers from some form of personality disturbance. In the Netherlands roughly 35 university students in 1,000 need some kind of psychological or psychiatric attention. Japan, Denmark, Austria and Switzerland lead the iworld in the number of suicides, while France consumes 10 times more alcohol proportionately than the U.S. or Sweden and 5 times more than Great Britain.

"If the amount of bodily disease in the world reached the proportions of many of the existing social ills with mental and emotional causes (delinquency, alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide, etc.) not to mention classical mental disease, an epidemic state would be declared and strong measures taken to combat it." This striking statement made at a WHO seminar a few years ago is equally true today. 

The increase in mental ill health now involves whole populations. Fortunately it has been accompanied by remarkable progress in treatment and a better understanding for the strains and stresses that affect everyday behaviour. Most of us in fact, at some time in our lives, suffer from minor troubles that mar our happiness, disorganize our social and family life or affect our capacity for work. We must realize that many of the problems of modern living are in fact mental health problems problems of nervousness, fear, lack of courage, intolerance, prejudice and impulsiveness.

It is important that people everywhere should open their eyes to the facts of the present mental health situation and its underlying causes. This is one of the chief objectives of World Mental Health Year 1959-60, sponsored by the World Federation of Mental Health and supported by WHO, Unesco and governmental and nongovernmental societies throughout the world.

World Mental Health Year (WMHY) was launched last month on World Health Day, and like the International Geophyscial Year will continue for 18 months with an international programme of research and inquiry and a broad campaign of public information and education centuries when mentally sick people were regarded simply as "lunatics" who had to be locked up in institutions or even chained in prisons, society is slowly losing its terror of mental disease and is coming to regard it as curable like other sicknesses. If treatment is begun early enough about 80% of mental patients can now look forward to being cured and can take their place once again in society.

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May 1959