Inarguably, strides in public health have improved quality of life across the globe. Improved sanitation, vaccinations, and better traffic safety are just some examples of the incredible difference that a focus on public health can make in developing and developed countries alike. But to see public health purely in terms of physical health misses the point.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity.” Unfortunately, there is comparatively little focus on curbing the plight of mental health, but doing so could have a profound effect on human life.
WHO estimates that approximately 14 percent of all disease worldwide can be attributed to neurological, mental, or substance abuse disorders. About 17 percent of the adult population will experience a major depressive disorder in their lifetime, and about 29 percent will have an anxiety disorder. Unlike other diseases, depression and anxiety usually have earlier onset dates, so they are conditions that can be treated earlier than chronic heart disease or diabetes.
Also, suicide rates, directly attributable to mental health, continue to rise. Over 800,000 suicides occur worldwide every year, and in the United States, more people die from suicide than traffic accidents. Where the military is concerned, more United States soldiers have died from suicide than from combat since 2012.