Locked up in a tiny room for 10 years, Keshava was dramatically rescued from a village near Bangalore last October. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Keshav’s life changed after his family – unable to cope with his increasingly violent outbursts – confined him. Stories of mental illness like this one are being reported from different parts of the globe.
Bearing this in mind, in the ongoing six-week television series, “The Truth About Mental Health”, which was first aired this Friday on BBC World Service, television personality Claudia Hammond is making an attempt to unravel how mental illnesses are defined in different parts of the world.
For Claudia this has been a fascinating series to make, meeting everyone from young men living in self-imposed exile in their bedrooms in Japan to survivors of terrorist shootings in Norway and Syrian children who have fled appalling violence. “Everyone I have met has been brave enough to talk about the difficulties which are the most personal of all – those involving the mind. Their stories have something to tell all of us about how the human mind works.”
In the series, Claudia visits cultural psychiatrist Micol Ascoli at Newham’s Centre for Mental Health in order to explore whether treatment developed in one country will work elsewhere.
According to the World Health Organisation, with wide-ranging conditions varying from anxiety and depression, to post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis, there are an “estimated 450 million people worldwide with mental health problems”. One in four people develop mental or behavioural disorders at some stage in life. The WHO predicts that by 2030 mental health treatments are to become the largest burden on global health resources.
Claudia looks at the enormous “treatment gap” that exists for mental disorders around the world. In many lower and middle-income countries, three quarters of people with mental health problems receive no treatment at all.
From Africa to Asia to the Middle East and Europe, Claudia investigates the alternative ways that people with mental health problems seek help and explores potential strategies for bridging this gulf in mental healthcare.
Throughout the series, she patiently listens to personal stories of individuals who still retain hope that treatment and recovery are possible from a range of distressing mental health conditions.