Reducing the treatment gap for mental disorders: a WPA survey

World Psychiatry. 2010 Oct;9(3):169-76. doi: 10.1002/j.2051-5545.2010.tb00305.x.


The treatment gap for people with mental disorders exceeds 50% in all countries of the world, approaching astonishingly high rates of 90% in the least resourced countries. We report the findings of the first systematic survey of leaders of psychiatry in nearly 60 countries on the strategies for reducing the treatment gap. We sought to elicit the views of these representatives on the roles of different human resources and health care settings in delivering care and on the importance of a range of strategies to increase the coverage of evidence-based treatments for priority mental disorders for each demographic stage (childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age). Our findings clearly indicate three strategies for reducing the treatment gap: increasing the numbers of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals; increasing the involvement of a range of appropriately trained non-specialist providers; and the active involvement of people affected by mental disorders. This is true for both high income and low/middle income countries, though relatively of more importance in the latter. We view this survey as a critically important first step in ascertaining the position of psychiatrists, one of the most influential stakeholder communities in global mental health, in addressing the global challenge of scaling up mental health services to reduce the treatment gap.

Keywords: Mental disorders; coverage of care; evidence-based treatments; human resources; mental health services; primary care; treatment gap.