Recognition of mental and neurological disorders

Don’t forget Mental Health

Von Norman Sartorius

The author criticizes that the last edition of the Bulletin about Chronic diseases has completely omitted the problems related to mental and neurological disorders.

I am regularly reading the Bulletin that you are editing and always found it interesting, informative, well presented and motivated by the admirable system of values on which Medicus Mundi is based.

It was therefore most disappointing to read the latest issue devoted to chronic diseases, which was also to serve as a reader for the 8th Symposium of the Swiss Health Cooperation. While discussing issues and problems related to some of major chronic diseases the persons who were contributing articles never mentioned the enormous magnitude of the problems related to mental and neurological disorders – nor did the editor make any comment about this omission.

500 million people suffering

Estimates made by the World Health Organization and by the World Bank clearly indicate that mental disorders produce the highest proportion of the burden of disease (including chronic as well as other diseases) and that there is no country in the world that is spared of that burden. Results of epidemiological studies done in many countries support the WHO statement that there are at least 500 million people suffering from these disorders; suicide that is frequently associated with mental illness kills more people than major communicable diseases, for example malaria; and what is perhaps most important modern science has produced means that allow effective treatment of most of these disorders and the prevention of many others.

Stigmatization of mental illness

I believe that the complete omission of any mention of mental and neurological problems – particularly in a reader for a symposium that was to discuss action – is a sad confirmation of the stigmatization of mental illness and of the consequent negative discrimination from which they suffer. The least that the editors and the writers of the articles could have done was to recognize the severity and magnitude of these diseases - not even that was done.

I hope that some time in the near future the Bulletin can address problems arising because of mental and neurological disorders – your readers deserve to be fully informed health care problems and solutions and the omission of mental disorders seriously distorts the presentation of the picture of health in the world today.

* Norman Sartorius is President of the Association for the Improvement of Mental Health Programmes. Contact: