Terms & Services – Asia is by far the largest continent in the world in terms of area and is covered by four of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s six regions (i.e., the Eastern Mediterranean, European, South East Asian and Western Pacific). With a population exceeding 3.5 billion, it is by no means a homogeneous continent. It has dozens of cultures, religions, languages and ethnic groups, that spread over climatic zones from the arctic and Himalayan to forbidding deserts of Mongolia and China and steamy tropical jungles of Malaysia and Indonesia. Asia is also a veritable chest of economic treasures and a collection of some of the poorest areas of the world. In political systems, it is no less varied, having a variety of both market economies and planned ones. As a result of these highly varied political systems, Asia also spawns a wide variety of health care systems, often based on historical roots and at times colonial heritages. Over 450 million persons are reported to suffer from mental or neurological disorders in the continent ().

Mental health care is therefore by no means standardized and extremely varied. These are important points to note, as the many so-called norms of psychiatric care in many economically highly developed countries may not only be not applicable but highly detrimental to mental health care in many parts of Asia. This is particularly true of some aspects of mental health care that are taken for granted in many developed countries, such as community care for the mentally ill, social security for the disabled, hostels for discharged mental patients in the community, and free treatment for the mentally ill. These and many other aspects of mental health care are not available in vast areas of Asia and often substituted by a remarkably resilient, but not always highly successful, family care alternative and a strong heritage of traditional medical care for the mentally ill, that is very often the norm.