Mental health


What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a severe form of mental illness affecting about 7 per thousand of the adult population, mostly in the age group 15-35 years. Though the incidence is low (3-10,000), the prevalence is high due to chronicity.


  • Schizophrenia affects about 24 million people wordwide.
  • Schizophrenia is a treatable disorder, treatment being more effective in its initial stages.
  • More than 50% of persons with schizophrenia are not receiving appropriate care.
  • 90% of people with untreated schizophrenia are in developing countries.
  • Care of persons with schizophrenia can be provided at community level, with active family and community involvement.

There are effective interventions (pharmacological and psychosocial) available and the cost of treatment of a person suffering from chronic schizophrenia is about US$2 per month; the earlier the treatment is initiated, the more effective it will be. However, the majority of the persons with chronic schizophrenia do not receive treatment, which contributes to the chronicity.

Pilot programmes in a few developing countries (e.g. India, Iran, Pakistan, Tanzania, Guinea-Bissau) have demonstrated the feasibility of providing care to people with severe mental illness through the primary health care systems by:

  • appropriate training of the primary health care personnel;
  • provision of essential drugs;
  • strengthening of the families for home care;
  • referral support from mental health professionals, and
  • public education to decrease stigma and discrimination.

Country projects:

Useful links

The WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse is grateful to the Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum for having made available their algorithms for treatment of schizophrenia which we recommend.