Yet the mental health of the region’s population is largely ignored by governments, communities and often even international development agencies.Not only does this have an extremely negative impact on the lives of the people who are ill, it also hits families hard too, and especially women and girls, who typically have to give up everything, including their jobs and education, to care for a relative with a mental illness.But the good news is that with the right care and support mental health problems can be effectively treated. And when they are, it can lead to a wide range of benefits, including happier individuals, fewer people falling into poverty, and better life chances for women and children, and especially girls.

Our five big reasons for focusing on mental health in South Asia


It’s a huge and growing issue in the region

Many people in the UK might assume that mental illness is not such an issue in developing regions like South Asia.

But imagine if you struggled every day to feed yourself or your family, lived in extreme poverty, received no support to help with a physical illness or disability, or had lost your home and livelihood because of a natural disaster.

These are the growing issues that millions of people in South Asia face every day. And they are why research shows 80% of people in the world who have mental health problems live in low or middle-income countries.

This is why Jaya Mental Health is determined to reach and support as many people as possible in South Asia.


Significant stigma surrounds mental illness

In South Asia, a severe lack of education and awareness means damaging stigma and prejudice still surrounds mental illness. Many people believe that mental health problems are the result of evil spirits or punishment for immoral behaviour.

This frequently leads to communities ostracising and discriminating against people with a mental health problem. Human rights abuses are also common, including families chaining up or caging a relative to avoid public shame.

In addition, mental illness is such a taboo subject that people don’t even have the vocabulary to talk about issues like depression.

This is why Jaya Mental Health is working hard to challenge misconceptions and prejudices, and advocating on behalf of people with a mental health problem.


Mental health support barely exists

Most low-income countries in South Asia spend less than 1% of their healthcare budget on mental healthcare. And when treatment is available, it’s usually totally inadequate because of a lack of funding and resources.

Overall in low-income countries, the number of mental health workers can be as small as 2 per 100,000 people, compared with more than 70 in high-income countries.

On top of this, many healthcare professionals labelled as mental health workers have received no training, and they can even be prejudiced towards people with mental problems themselves.

This is why Jaya Mental Health is focused on training, equipping and empowering existing healthcare professionals in South Asia so they can provide high-quality mental health support.


Mental health support barely exists

In South Asia, there is a close link between mental illness and poverty, homelessness and other forms of disadvantage.

This is because people with a mental health problem may not be able to work due to a lack of treatment. Or they may lose their job or be denied work opportunities because of discrimination.


Usually, unemployment means people cannot afford the treatment they need, which results in their condition getting worse and their chance of getting a job decreasing further.


In South Asia, most communities help families that have descended into poverty because of illness. But because of stigma and prejudice, this rarely happens when someone is affected by a mental health problem.


This is why Jaya Mental Health is committed to reaching the most vulnerable and helping them get the support they need so they can secure employment.


Providing the right support can lead to tremendous benefits

One of the major reasons we focus on mental illness in South Asia is because if it’s treated the right way incredible things can happen. Good mental health not only means healthier and happier individuals; it can also lead to positive change in many other areas too.

Helps people escape from poverty

Receiving the right treatment can help a person to continue working, or secure a job if they don’t have one. This employment is critical if a person is going to lift themselves and their family out of poverty.

Saves the lives of mothers and their children

In developing countries 15.6% of pregnant women and 19.8% of women who have just given birth are affected by a mental health problem. But despite these very worrying figures, maternal mental health support is almost non-existent.

As a result, suicide is a major cause of death for this group; and affected mothers can often struggle to look after their babies and other children, leading to neglect, hunger and even death.

However, the good news is maternal mental health problems are treatable. This is why our work in South Asia is critical to saving the lives of pregnant women and new mothers, and ensuring children develop and grow normally and safely.

Keeps girls in school

In South Asian countries, when there’s mental illness in the family it’s often girls who suffer the most. They are the ones most likely to take on the role of carers and as a result miss out on school. Factors such as gender discrimination and violence, and child marriage put girls at high risk of struggling with mental illness themselves. Without supportive communities girls are further at risk from dropping out of school.