Module 2: Epidemiology of Mental Health Conditions

Mental health is fundamental to good health and well-being. The problems that may arise from mental health are complex, resulting from the presence of a variety of risk and protective factors. Thus, the factors that affect mental health as an outcome of their intricate relationship must be considered. These intricate connections of risk factors can be classified as primary and secondary categories, ranging from genetic and biomedical at an individual level to psychological, sociocultural, and communal levels.

The social determinants of mental health are, along with environmental factors, some of the most analyzed factors affecting mental well-being. This is due to their intimate connection with the individual-level factors, leading to an intervention in the clinical setting and at the societal level, being addressed through changes in public policies and social norms.

Mental health disorders affect a large number of people, but certain groups are especially vulnerable to them. The vulnerable populations include the economically disadvantaged, people experiencing homelessness, people involved in the criminal justice system, women (deepening the vulnerability in case of pregnancy), people belonging to racial and ethnic minorities, low-income and refugee children, adolescents, the elderly, those with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and those with other chronic health conditions, among other groups.

Now that the risk and protective factors are being considered, it is important to understand better the prevalence of mental health and mental health diseases and how they have evolved globally. The magnitude of these disorders has a significant impact on the population, as evidenced by the years of life lost and years lived with a disability.

Unfortunately, using the indicators presented above can lead to an underestimation of the global burden of mental health caused by a variety of factors such as the overlap between psychiatric and neurological disorders, the exclusion of personality disorders in mental illness disease, inadequate consideration of the contribution of severe mental illness to mortality from associated causes, the grouping of suicide and behaviors associated with self-injury as a separate category, as some examples. To avert the miscalculation, an adjustment led by currently available evidence and specific assumptions is crucial, without forgetting the impact of substance use disorders and the constraints of mental health disorders in developing countries.