The Sri Lanka College of Psychiatrists has charged that persons suffering from mental health problems were unable to access professional advice because the distribution of mental health services in the country was lagging behind.

It was recently revealed that approximately 800,000 persons in the country, out of which the majority were females, suffered from depression.

Only 40% are known to be seeking treatment in this regard. It is said that poverty affects mental health and mental illness impacts a person’s economic and financial circumstances.

Apart from psychological problems, biological and environmental factors are the causes behind depression which experts say manifests itself in symptoms such as the loss of appetite and weight, sleepiness, the lack of concentration, anger and headaches among other issues.

President-elect of the College, Dr. Shehan Williams declared that the national allocation for mental health services was limited.
He highlighted the need to formulate a national mental health policy for which legislation in the form of a Mental Health Act was a prerequisite.

The prevention of mental illness, the promotion of mental health which is linked to one’s overall wellbeing including physical health, early identification, training of all sections including medical and non-medical professionals and early treatment along with an appropriate referral system at a systematic level is urgently required according to Dr Williams.

“Depression which globally accounts for a high burden of diseases and accounts for almost 20% of morbidity in the local population is linked to heart diseases, cancers, allergies, disabilities, while serious mental disorders such as bipolar affective disorder while schizophrenia affects about two per cent of the population,” said Dr Williams.

Depression affects this 20% at some point in their lives, in a person’s old age while he or she is susceptible to depression while dementia remains a huge issue.

Anxiety-related disorders can be most disabling, it has been revealed. Elsewhere, one has to get out of the concept of mental hospitals and asylums and move towards clinics and units in district level hospitals, the latter of which is part of the normal health service and not separate from it.