9.3 The treatment gap
So far, you have learned that mental illness is common and has a heavy burden for people affected by it, including family members. One of the best ways to reduce the burden of mental illness is to provide effective treatment. Simple, cheap and effective treatments are available for most mental illnesses but, in Ethiopia, only 10% of people with severe mental illness ever receive these treatments. The difference between those who need treatment and those who get treatment is known as the treatment gap.
From your general knowledge of people in your community, why do you think so many people with mental illness never receive the treatment that could help them?
Some possible reasons that may have occurred to you are as follows:
- they don’t know that effective treatments exist
- they don’t know where to get help
- the stigma prevents them asking for help
- they have to travel too far for help
- they can’t afford the medication
- they don’t believe that health staff can help with this kind of problem
- they prefer to have traditional treatments
- they don’t like the side-effects of medication
- they don’t believe that they have an illness.
In the next section you will learn about how mental healthcare can become more accessible to those who need it by providing support through the healthcare system.