13.5 million Vietnamese suffer from common mental illnesses: health official

Around 15% of the Vietnamese population, or 13.5 million people, are battling common forms of mental illness, of which three million experience severe psychiatric disorders.

These figures were announced by Tran Quy Tuong, vice director of the Agency of Medical Service Administration under the Ministry of Health, at a consultative workshop on national strategy on mental health organized recently by the Ministry of Health in Hanoi.

The causes of such mental disorders range from genetics, poor personal health, and poverty to unemployment, illiteracy, divorce, and any form of violence.

Ten common mental diseases that Vietnamese are likely to develop are schizophrenia, depression, epilepsy, anxiety disorders, dementia, disorders caused by traumatic brain injury, mental retardation, behavioral disorders, and other mental illnesses brought about by alcohol and drugs, the Vietnam News Agency quoted Dr. Lai Duc Truong from the World Health Organization’s representative office in Vietnam, as saying at the workshop.

However, most people are still not fully aware of the situation as they only associate mental illness with schizophrenia and insanity, whose characteristics are rather evident, while ignoring the rest, Dr. Truong said.

Symptoms that indicate mental illness are very diverse, including sleeping disorders, neurasthenia, pessimism, lack of confidence and others, news website Dan Tri cited Director of National Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 La Duc Cuong as saying.

Therefore many patients suffering those ailments are not aware of their own problems or do not want their symptoms to be diagnosed, Dr. Truong added, elaborating that only three out of 10 such patients in Vietnam have their mental illness treated.

The fight against psychiatric disorders in Vietnam still faces several challenges due to many reasons, especially a lack of qualified personnel, the Vietnam News Agency reported, citing Dr. Truong.

While the number of patients has already exceeded ten million, there are only about 1,000 doctors specializing in psychiatry, who mainly work at hospitals in big cities, the doctor said.

The current inappropriate payment mechanism applied to mental health care and the absence of incentive policies for doctors have also exacerbated the problem, Dr. Truong explained.

The Vietnamese government should consider promulgating laws and making national policies on mental health to improve health care services and raise people’s awareness, Professor Harry Minas, a mental health expert from Melbourne University in Australia, was quoted by the Vietnam News Agency as saying at the workshop.

The Ministry of Health has submitted a plan on national strategy on mental health for the 2016-25 period to the prime minister.

Mental health care services will be offered comprehensively and included in the treatment options at general hospitals throughout Vietnam, especially those at the district level, according to the plan.