Violence, Trauma and the Mental Health Gap
We are facing a significant global mental health gap. In high-income countries, 35–50% of people with mental health needs lack access to care; in low-income countries, the estimate is closer to 90%. Some of the most vulnerable populations include victims and witnesses of human rights abuses from war, torture, human trafficking and other forms of persecution. Without support for their emotional wellbeing, survivors of such traumatic experiences can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, leading to problems such as suicidality, substance use, chronic disease, poverty, homelessness, and more.
The impacts of psychological trauma are both immediate and long term, and have emotional, social, and economic consequences for individuals, families, and societies. When exposure to trauma is severe, recurring, and interpersonal in nature—such as refugees suffering repeated torture, loss, and displacement—complex trauma can lead to even greater distress. When entire societies are affected by large-scale violence such as war and genocide, collective trauma can result, deeply affecting the social fabric, as well as the lives of future generations.
Mental health care which can adequately serve international populations faces limitations due to insufficient funding and lack of trained mental health professionals. In low-income countries, trained psychologists, social workers and other mental health staff are few. Even when a limited number of professionals exists, they often have inadequate support for working with severe trauma, and cannot provide care for the many people directly and indirectly impacted by human rights violations.
India has only one psychiatrist per 200,000 people.
Togo has only 4 psychiatrists in the entire country. Niger has only 3, Liberia has 1, and Sierra Leone has none.