Mental health issue

HEALTH Minister Jone Usamate has described the state of mental health in the country as a tsunami waiting to happen if not given the attention it deserves.

While speaking in Parliament last week, Mr Usamate said mental health was hugely under reported in the country.

“We do not have very good data on how pervasive or very big it is but if we just take the data from World Health Organization, which states that mental health constitutes 13 per cent of the global burden of disease, which is even higher than cardiovascular disease and cancer,” he said.

“If you take that 13 per cent and apply it to Fiji, which has an estimated 615,000 adults, we will have around 79,000 people living with mental health disorders.

“This means about 18,000 with severe mental disorder and about 61,000 with mild to moderate.”

He said despite the high number of possible mental health disorder cases in the country, very few sought professional help.

“If you compare those numbers with the numbers that actually show up at St Giles Hospital, only around 1900 people show up.” He said in 2011, only 493 people with severe mental disorders received patient treatment at St Giles.

Agreeing with Mr Usamate, Empower Pacific chief executive officer Patrick Morgam said the firm’s own figures showed a growing demand from clients with mental wellbeing issues.

“Despite the growing demand, it is also clear that many sufferers do not access the services that are available to them,” Mr Morgam said.

“This is due to many reasons, including lack of knowledge of the services, unable to reach services, fear of community stigma, sufferers not understanding their own mental health issue and severe sufferers using non-professional services.”

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