A global vision of mental diseases

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  1. In 2015, in the European Union, 84 000 people die, with the death cause being mental diseases or even suicide. They are mostly men (43.000 against 13.000 women).

The concept of mental diseases has been growing throughout the years. A lot was written about the subject, including books, articles, music… in the last years, new diseases have entered the list. The concept has become more complex and harder to explain.

When it is considered a disease

Mental diseases are considered diseases as soon as they affect the well being of the individual, bringing countless consequences in personal, professional and emotional aspects of living. For example, video games addiction has been considered a mental disease by the World Health Organization, according to a tweet published by CBS 13, a north-American television station.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms depend on the disease. The American Psychiatric Association published a manual called Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Since their first edition, in 1952, the manual has had more editions. From the first edition, in 1952, the manual has had more editions. It is just from 2013, that the diseases are separated into categories according to the symptoms associated with them.


To try and promote mental health, but also to fight against the stigma associated with these diseases, multiple campaigns across the globe were created. The Project Mental Health and Art is a Portuguese project which goal is to promote mental health and fight against stigma, organizing workshops, expositions from various artistic areas such as painting, sculpture and photography. Still in Portugal, the National Federation of Mentally Ill Rehabilitation Entities created a campaign called “Change your attitude towards Mental Diseases” in which their supporters would put a lime green bow in their social media profiles during the month of October.

Outside of Portugal, Heads Together, British campaign co – ordinated by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex has also tried to help people feeling comfortable with mental health and to help friends, family that need support and are going through a difficult time.

Time to Change, also British, with similar goals, is trying to alert and get people to think about mental health.

All of them have the common goal to eliminate stigma, promote mental health and bring awareness, educating people about the subject.

Mental diseases in numbers

According to World Health Organization, 322 million people suffer with some type of mental disease. According to a 2016 study by the Institute For Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), in the European Union we talk about around 84 million.  According to a 2018 study called “Health at a Glance”, here is a ranking:

  • 1º Anxiety (affecting around 25 million people);
  • 2º Depression, with 21 million people affected;
  • 3º Alcohol and Drugs use disorder (11 million people affected);
  • 4º Bipolar Diseases with 5 million affected;
  • 5º Schizophrenic Disorders, with 1.5 million affected;

If we compare the different countries of the European Union, we can verify (with the author Munizza, whose work is cited inside the document) that mental diseases are more present in countries like Finland, Netherlands, France and Ireland (with 18,5% of people affected). Countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Polonia are least affected by mental diseases (with 15% of people affected).

In terms of gender, the study shows that anxiety, depression and bipolar diseases are more common in women and, otherwise, drugs and alcohol use disorders are more common among men.

Professional situation and education level could also be causes to the probability of developing a mental disease. Following that line of reasoning, people who earn less, are unemployed or have a low level of education are more likely to develop a mental disease. Vice versa, the probability decreases.

In 2015, in the European Union, 84 000 people die, with the death cause being mental diseases or even suicide. They are mostly men (43.000 against 13.000 women).

If we organize the data with age as a criterion, there are more suicides between 45 and 64 years of age. From 65 to 74 years, there is a decrease in the number of suicides. By countries, Lithuania (with 30 deaths in 100.000 people), Slovenia, Latvia and Hungry (all with 20 deaths in 100.000 people) are the countries with more suicides, numbers that are almost two times greater than European Union average. Otherwise in Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Spain we verify less suicides.

Mental diseases are the second main cause of deaths in the ages of 15-24. The main cause is road traffic injuries, according to data from 2015.


There are certain factors that could help to explain why mental diseases develop, such as genetic, economic and even social. Issues such as alcohol and drugs addiction, poverty or debt, a trauma or even a physical illness can aggravate this type of diseases.

Living with a mental disease

This type of diseases brings a lot of problems to the individual, and they don´t choose ages or genders or even social and economic backgrounds. In children, a mental disease will decrease school achievement and job opportunities in the future. In adults leads to a minor productivity and, consequently, a bigger probability of unemployment. In elders leads to isolation and less participation in the community. The biggest consequence is suicide.

Stigma and stereotypes

Even with the development of multiple campaigns across the globe, there is still a lot of stigma associated with mental diseases. The British Association of Psychopharmacology has listed some of them:

  • Schizophrenics are very likely to have a violent behaviour;
  • Someone that has alcohol and drugs use disease or an eating disorders is seen as an individual´s own fault;
  • People with depression or anxiety need to pull themselves together;
  • Mental diseases are rare;
  • The treatment is ineffective;
  • A person with this type of disease never recovers.
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