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OECD calls for mental health reform in Korea

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Published : 2012-11-08 20:20
Updated : 2012-11-08 20:20

Korea needs to overhaul its mental health care system and end its long-accepted practice of isolating the mentally ill in hospitals, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report Thursday.

The current system, dominated by hospitals and other long-term facilities and a high proportion of involuntary admissions, requires a thorough investigation of its cost-effectiveness as well as potential for human rights abuses, it added. 

“As in other OECD countries, Korea should shift toward greater care in the community and expanding the role of primary care,” it recommended.

The report, titled “Mental Health in Korea: OECD review and recommendations,” was unveiled by its lead author and psychiatrist Susan O’Connor at a forum in Seoul on the mental health care policies of Korea, China and Japan.

Around 150 government officials and professors of mental illness from the three countries participated in the forum and discuss issues and problems of mental health treatment in Korea.

It came as the country ponders on better mental care services, stung by a high suicide rate, problematic alcohol use, gambling addiction and school violence.

The OECD report also pointed out that depression and anxiety disorders are under-diagnosed and under-treated, due to social stigma on the mentally ill, and a lack of appropriate community resources for the treatment of mild-to-moderate mental illnesses.

“An increase in the availability of psychological treatment would be a highly appropriate response.”

It cited a successful case in England, in which the expansion of treatment for mild-to-moderate depression was successfully achieved with the national program of easy-to-access psychological therapies, the “Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies” (IAPT) program.

By Kim Young-won (wone0102@heraldcorp.com)