October 10, 2008

WHO: Mental Health Stigma Unfair

People with mental health problems should no longer be denied treatment because of cultural stigmas, World Health Organization officials said in Switzerland.

Benedetto Saraceno, director of WHO's Mental Health and Substance Abuse Department, said in Geneva that nearly 300 million people worldwide are currently suffering from some form of mental illness, the Voice of America reported Thursday.

"We calculate around 200 million people today are not receiving the treatment they need," because of social stigmas regarding mental illness in some cultures, especially in developing countries, Saraceno said.

The WHO official called for wholesale changes to allow those untreated individuals to overcome such cultural prejudices.

"The key point is to give voice to people with mental health problems so they can come up and say, 'Yes. We have mental health problems. So what. We want to be treated. We want to be respected,'" Saraceno said.