In the Western Pacific Region, the burden of mental and neurological disorders account for as high as 27% of the total disease burden in affluent countries and in others, the figure is 15%. In proportion, the burden of mental disorders is heavy and increasing in developing countries.
Suicide is an important public health problem closely linked to mental health and from a global study, mental disorders (particularly depression and substance abuse) are associated with more than 90% of all cases of suicide and studies from countries within the region have indicated a range from 63% to 83%. In several countries of the Western Pacific Region, suicide is a major cause of mortality.
Mental health has been neglected, and problems associated with mental illness and disability are growing. Governments need to set priorities and take the lead in promoting mental health to fight the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.
In the year 2000, approximately one million people died from suicide: a "global" mortality rate of 16 per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds. In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years (both sexes); these figures do not include suicide attempts up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicide.
Approximately 390, 000 deaths were reported from suicide in the Region in 1999 and it is estimated that in 2002 there were approximately 331, 000 suicides in the Region, comprising 38% of the world suicides.
Suicide is among the top five causes of injury-related deaths, accounting for more than road accidents and falls combined. Globally suicide represents 1.4% of the global burden of diseases, but in this Region the burden reaches 2.5%.
WHO has increased its attention to mental health globally as well as regionally. At the global level, mental health was selected as the theme for World Health Day 2001 and was the subject for the World Health Report in 2001. In the Western Pacific Region, there is an increase in support to countries undertaking interventions to improve mental health and reduce the burden of mental disorder.
Mental Health improvements are central to a nation’s development (MIND) and by treating these debilitating disorders and promoting mental health, people will experience major improvements in their lives. They will be able to rise out of poverty, provide their children with the right social and emotional environment to flourish, participate productively in community life, and contribute to the economy of their country. In order to achieve this, countries need to put in place human rights oriented mental health policies, strategic plans and laws to ensure effective treatment, prevention and promotion programs are made available to everyone.