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14 million Vietnamese suffer from mental illness: WHO representative

14 million Vietnamese suffer from mental illness: WHO representative

Thursday, June 29, 2023, 12:15 GMT+7
14 million Vietnamese suffer from mental illness: WHO representative
Patients wait for mental health checks at the Ho Chi Minh City Psychiatric Hospital. Photo: X.Mai / Tuoi Tre

Up to 14.1 percent of the Vietnamese population, equal to about 14 million people, suffer from mental illness, according to Lai Duc Truong, a representative from the World Health Organization office in Vietnam who spoke at a seminar in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday.

Currently, about 1,000 doctors in Vietnam specialize in the treatment of mental illness. 

The vast majority of these doctors work in central-level hospitals and medical facilities in large cities, said Truong during his speech at the 'Enhancing Care for Mental Health in Ho Chi Minh City' seminar.

The event was co-sponsored by the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health and National Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 in Hanoi.

Care for patients with psychiatric disorders in Vietnam remains limited, with almost no district-level hospitals offering mental healthcare services.

Those who do have access to care are typically given medicine as a first-line treatment, rather than psychotherapy.

In addition, there are no sustainable financial resources available for public mental health, Truong added.

The challenge of providing mental healthcare to Vietnamese citizens is only expected to increase in correlation with rising work pressure, financial inequality, and alcohol consumption. 

Lai Duc Truong, a representative of the World Health Organization office in Vietnam. Photo: X.Mai / Tuoi Tre

Lai Duc Truong, a representative of the World Health Organization office in Vietnam. Photo: X.Mai / Tuoi Tre

Poor awareness of mental health issues, particularly among low-income Vietnamese, has also led to discrimination against those who suffer from mental illness, thus prompting many to conceal their own mental health issues.

Truong suggested that health authorities ensure the sufficient provision of mental healthcare services and integrate these services into the wider healthcare system. 

He added that a heavy focus should be placed on preventative treatment and the study of mental health.

In Ho Chi Minh City, dementia is the most common mental health issue amongst senior citizens, with somewhere between 7.8 and 9.7 percent of residents aged 65 and older affected by the disease. 

Comparatively, only 0.78 percent of the senior population in the rest of the country lives with dementia, according to doctor Tran Duy Tam from the Ho Chi Minh City Psychiatric Hospital.

Meanwhile, 9.5 percent of Ho Chi Minh City’s population suffers from depression. Nationally, the rate is just 2.47 percent.

The Ho Chi Minh City Psychiatric Hospital, 21 smaller clinics, and 321 medical stations in the city are currently treating 10,000 schizophrenic and 7,000 epileptic patients.

More than 3,000 patients with mental illnesses who are homeless or have no family member or identity paper are receiving treatment at medical stations run by the municipal Department of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs, Tam added.

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Thanh Ha- Xuan Mai / Tuoi Tre News

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