How You Doing Out There?

How you doing out there

How You Doing Out There?

Every day I check where in the world my readers are from. I don’t know why. Maybe I take comfort knowing we are not alone in regards to mental illness. It’s not often I willingly do math, but I twisted my own arm for the basis of this post. Here is a two-week average, from highest to lowest of the top twenty-five countries my readers come from:

United Arab Emirates
South Africa

It’s no surprise that most of my visitors are from the U.S., the UK and Canada. Some of the others I do find surprising, or at least interesting. For example, I have never heard of Mauritius. I checked, so you don’t have to look it up. It’s an Island country in the Indian Ocean. Their population is 1.3 million people, so I’m kind of embarrassed I’ve never heard of it. You should check their website. It looks like a nice place.

Looking over the list makes me wonder about mental health care around the world. There’s lots to complain about regarding the mental health system in the U.S. My friends in the U.K. and Canada aren’t thrilled with their systems either, but stress that at least they won’t be turned away because of the inability to pay.

Not Much To Go On

The World Health Organization defines mental health as:

a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential and can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

That’s a pretty tall order. I had hoped to write a post comparing mental health throughout the world, but there isn’t much out there. Other than a report on suicide rates, even the World Health Organization did not have much to provide. An article in the Washington Post on depression rates around the world explains why there is so little global data:

… researchers didn’t go out and test everyone for clinical depression; rather, they used preexisting data. That means we’re not looking at rates of clinical depression, exactly, so much as the rate at which people are diagnosed with clinical depression. People who live in countries with greater awareness of and easier access to mental health services, then, are naturally going to be diagnosed at a higher rate. That may help explain the unusually low rate in Iraq, for example, where public health services are poor. Taboos against mental health disorders may also drive down diagnosis rates, for example in East Asia, artificially lowering the study’s measure of clinical depression’s prevalence in that region. The paper further cautions that reliable depression surveys don’t even exist for some low-income countries — a common issue with global studies — forcing the researchers to come up with their own estimates based on statistical regression models


In other words, the reports are useless. I mean if the Washington Post has to put a disclaimer on their article, why should I even bother? Therefore, I stopped looking for reports comparing mental health across the globe.

Suicide Rates

The only report I feel comfortable showing is a list by the World Health Organization of suicide rates across the globe. Even that is suspect, but it has few disclaimers on it. Here are the five countries, from my list of readers, who have the highest number of suicides per 100,000 people:

Russia 22.8
India 22.0
Japan 19.1
Ukraine 16.6
Ireland 11.3

Here are the five countries, from my list of readers, with the lowest number of suicides per 100,000 people:

South Africa 1.0
Philippines 2.3
Mexico 4.2
Spain 5.6
U.K. 6.0

What Does All This Mean?

As you can see, from the big three, the only one that made the cut is the United Kingdom. Fortunately for them, they are on the low side. The United States scored at 10.3 and Canada at 10.1 I have no idea why they are so much higher than the U.K. In fact, I don’t know if you can glean any conclusions off of any of this.

As I said, I had hoped to have more information to pass on, and provide an excellent synopsis. Instead I am more frustrated and feel more isolated from so many of you. At the end of each day I look and wonder what’s going on with all of you in Russia, and Spain and even you folks in little Maturates. I guess I’ll never know. I just hope you all will be okay out there.

6 comments on How You Doing Out There?

  1. I think that you are frustrated in your attempts to determine statistically why some countries have higher rates of mental health problems and suicide rates than others because a) researchers are really only starting to look at mental health, b) there is a huge stigma surrounding even talking about mental illness; more so in some countries than others, and c) as much as I try to look at the optimistic side of life, there’s a part of me that thinks others (the “normals”) don’t want to hear about, talk about or even pay a modicum of attention to mental health issues. I really think that as long as mental illness does not touch their lives in an obvious way that the “normals” just do not care,

    What really amuses me, though, is that the “normals” lives are touched every day by someone who is mentally ill but not obviously so. Now, I know that my amusement comes at the cost of others, and is not very Buddhist of me but I cannot help myself. I have become so skilled at hiding the fact that I struggle with several different disorders that it tickles me to know that the “normals” think I am one of them until I tell them. I do not know if that is a good skill or a bad one.

    I also think that as people with mental disorders age, they become more adept at managing their symptoms which leads to fewer hospitalizations and completed suicides which is part of where the stats are pulled from. The other part comes from self-reports of hospitalizations and suicide attempts, and if it is really uncool to talk about this stuff in your country, your stats are going to be skewed.

    But, yes, we are out there, millions strong. At a rate of approximately 2.6% of the population of the US alone that is 6.5 million people. That’s just counting people who diagnosed with Bipolar Spectrum Disorder. It is not taking into account people who have never sought treatment. Don’t worry, you are not alone. We are out there; we’re just playing hide and seek with society 🙂

    1. Excellent comments. I would add that another reason I am frustrated is because I’m so worried about people who live in other countries. If you’re family is struggling just to get food on the table, then there’s not going to be much time to worry about someone being depressed. You mentioned the stigma as well. It’s sad to think about people in first world countries who could have access to mental health care, but can’t because of the stigma.

      I remember the hell I was going through before I was diagnosed, the agonizing pain of trying to find a clinic that wasn’t overloaded and could take me in, and finally the 2 or 3 years it took to find the right medication for me. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. To think some people in the world who have no chance of getting help makes me sad and angry.

    1. Being jailed for attempting suicide? Unreal. Excellent article. Thank you for the link.

  2. It is terrible that millions of people in the world don’t have access to mental health care and that stigma prevents many from seeking help. I find it equally frustrating, or maybe more so, that so many people in the US, don’t have access due to lack of services in their area and/or the inability to afford the care. This is an affluent country compared to much of the world. Yet not every town is blessed with a free clinic. There is one, just one, to serve my whole county. Payment works on a sliding scale and services are free for those who qualify. Due to the number of patients, getting an appointment with the psychiatrist can be many weeks out. Many people don’t have the transportation to get there–its not centrally located in my county. Its on the west coast so it can be quite a drive for those on the east end and we don’t have public transportation here. It irks me that often those who are able to see a Pdoc cannot afford their meds so they stop treatment. Even with prescription insurance the balance due can be unaffordable. We have families who can barely put food on their table (many get food from food pantries) so finding money for meds is just not in the equation. I know there are organizations that are working to change the system but I feel it’s like trying to turn a humongous ship with a microscopic rudder. Forgive my rant–it is just so frustrating to think of all these people, abroad and in the US, not getting the help they so desperately need.

    1. It’s a good rant, Journey There’s no excuse in the world for anyone in the US to not be able to get the help they need. No excuse. Thank you for your comment. .

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