75% of people with neurological, mental and substance abuse disorders remain untreated worldwide, according to estimates by WHO (World Health Organization). This includes almost 95 million people with depression and over 25 million with epilepsy. WHO hopes that its simplified new treatment guidelines, called The Intervention Guide may help promote better management of depression, substance abuse disorders, epilepsy, well as a number of mental disorders in a general practice setting.

WHO explains that the Intervention Guide, consisting of evidence-based guidelines, is aimed at doctors, nurses and other health care providers who are not specialized in mental health, to help them accurately diagnose and manage patients.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, the World Health Organization, said:

In a key achievement, the Intervention guide transforms a world of expertise and clinical experience, contributed by hundreds of experts, into less than 100 pages of clinical wisdom and succinct practical advice.

Being able to diagnose and treat millions of currently neglected patients in a primary health care (general practice) system will raise the number of individuals who can access care considerably, WHO writes in a communiqué.

Dr Ala Alwan, Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health at WHO, said:

Improvement in mental health services doesn’t require sophisticated and expensive technologies. What is required is increasing the capacity of the primary health care system for delivery of an integrated package of care.

Experts say that approximately 25% of the world’s population will have a mental health condition at some point in their lives. There is a stigma associated with mental, substance abuse and neurological conditions which commonly leave sufferers neglected and/or abused.

In most of the world less than 2% of health care expenditure is dedicated to mental health, leaving huge numbers of individuals with no access to treatment or care.

Jointly with a number of partners, WHO aims to provide support to nations so that they can implement the new guidelines. Some programs have already started in Sierra Leone, Panama, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Jordan, and the Solomon Islands.

Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, said:

The programme will lead to nurses in Ethiopia recognizing people suffering with depression in their day to day work and providing psychosocial assistance. Similarly, doctors in Jordan and medical assistants in Nigeria will be able to treat children with epilepsy. Both these conditions are commonly encountered in primary care, but neither identified nor treated due to lack of knowledge and skills of the health care providers.

Source: World Health Organization (WHO)

Written by Christian Nordqvist