People with mental illness left behind in Vietnam

By VnExpress   December 1, 2016 | 11:00 am PT
People with mental illness left behind in Vietnam
Mentally ill patients at a care center in Da Nang. Photo by Vietnam News Agency/Anh Tuan
200,000 people struggle with severe mental illnesses in a country that lacks a proper treatment model.

Vietnam has recently presented new figures on mental and emotional disorders, notably reporting a small but largely untreated population of severe cases.

Around 13.5 million people suffer from common mental disorders in Vietnam, according to figures presented at a conference this week. The country has a population of over 90 million.

The Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs estimated that 15 percent of the population suffers from one of ten common disorders. The ministry further reported that 20 percent of children aged 8 to 17 suffer from such problems.

Only 20-30 percent of the patients receive treatment and usually with medication rather than psychological therapy, it found.

Local media reported that the ministry found 2.8 percent of the population live with depression, 2.6 percent suffer from anxiety disorders and 0.47 percent suffer from schizophrenia. 

The ministry claimed that 200,000 Vietnamese people suffer from severe mental illnesses. Among them, officials said most cannot care for themselves, 15 percent usually develop violent behavior and 37 percent have yet to receive medication.

The figures haven't changed much from reports in 2015, and are considerably low compared to other countries in Asia.

In 2012, Thailand's Minister of Health told the Bangkok Post that one in five of its citizens suffered from mental health problems, most of which went untreated. The minister took the extraordinary step of attributing the problem to development and urbanization, which led the World Health Organization to elevate the problem to one of the world's most pressing public health problems, second only to heart disease.

Vietnam currently has 45 mental healthcare facilities but most haven't developed a proper model, according to ministry officials.

Patients are crowded into one place for treatment and kept isolated from the community.

Rehabilitation has been tough for many patients, and around 18 percent of the families of patients with severe mental illnesses reportedly face discrimination from the community.

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