Iraqi Mental Health
Recent studies project mental illness and substance abuse will soon constitute five of the leading ten causes of disability and premature death globally (WHO 2004). Societies torn by natural disaster and war face higher levels of emotional distress (Mollica 2004) and yet are most in need of productive, healthy citizens. Therefore, preventing mental disability caused by mental illness and substance abuse in otherwise physically healthy individuals is critical to help rebuild those societies. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the fourth leading cause of morbidity in Iraqis older than five years is mental illness, ranked higher than infectious disease (WHO 2005). Iraq, like most low and lower-middle income countries (Saxena & Maulik 2003), has struggled to establish a national mental health policy: Iraq has dedicated less than 1% of their health care budget to mental health, failed to establish community mental health centers, not been able to secure essential pharmaceuticals, and not developed a viable mental health care monitoring system. Iraq serves as a prime example of how global forces, political culture, and national history shape and constrain mental health programming. This policy brief will explore the current state of Iraq’s mental health policy and provide suggestions for future direction and development.
Although Iraq’s political circumstances are chaotic and in continuous flux, there are several stable global stakeholders that will drive Iraq’s national mental health policy regardless of who secures political power. However, before describing the various roles of the current global players, it is worth reviewing the historical context of Iraq’s current health care circumstances.