Last updated: 2 september, 2009 - 13:04 GMT

Mental health: a global challenge

The first Global Mental Health Summit is taking place this week in the Greek capital, Athens.

Pascale Harter is covering the conference for the BBC.

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The human rights of those affected by mental illness is a major issue for them, their families and for society as a whole.

Tina Minkowitz is from the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, a group which campaigns for the rights of people who have been treated by psychiatrists.

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In China, there have been accusations that the state has used "political psychiatry" to suppress dissent.

In the 1990s, the spiritual movement Falungong was seen as a big threat to the Chinese authorities and practitioners were considered to be cult members.

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Zhang Yi Jie told the BBC she was taken to an asylum in Beijing.

"Political psychiatry" was also used in Soviet Russia.

Robert Van Voren is the author of Dissidents and Madness.


Hearing voices:

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One of the biggest taboos surrounding mental illness is "hearing voices".

Pascale Harter has been speaking to Pete Bullimore who has wrestled with mental illness for many years.

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Auditory hallucinations are considered by clinical psychiatry to be a symptom of schizophrenia or psychosis and sufferers are usually treated with tranquillisers to try to make the voices go away.

But in the last few years a new school of thought has developed which considers voice hearing to be a variation in the human experience, something that cannot be cured.

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Instead, practitioners try to help people live in harmony with their voices.

The BBC's Chloe Hadjimatheou went to meet psychologist, Rufus May, who is pioneering new techniques in this field by actually talking back to the voices.

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Depression:

Dr Shekhar Saxena

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The World Health Organisation predicts that in the next 20 years more people will be affected by depression than any other cause of ill health worldwide.

They say of all health problems this will represent the biggest burden on society.

Pascale Harter spoke to the Dr Shekhar Saxena, from the Department of Mental Health at the WHO.


Susan Catherine Keter

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Kenya:

The experience of depression can be affected by the attitudes around you as well as the access to treatment.

In Kenya, for example, many people believe that you cannot have a mental condition unless you have done something wrong.

Susan Catherine Keter from Nairobi describes how she felt on the day she was first diagnosed with depression.



Brazil:

Figures suggest depression has already become the biggest health problem in Brazil.

In Complexo de Alemao, a favela or shanty town in Rio de Janeiro, tens of thousands of people tread a fine line between the drug gangs and the police, leading to inevitable tensions.

But local people must also confront issues such as ill health and depression.

As the BBC's Gary Duffy reports, the residents have been relying on assistance from the international organisation Medicins Sans Frontieres, best known for their work in countries at war.

Complexo do Alemao in Rio de Janeiro (photo: 2007) and Tyler Fainstat of MSF

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Children with ADHD

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United Kingdom:

Figures from the UK suggest that one in 10 children and young people aged between five and 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder.

The BBC's Claire Bowes has been finding out more about the help available with one of the most controversial diagnoses, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) which is thought to affect between 2-7% of children in Britain.



First broadcast 2-4 September 2009

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