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Mental Health for Sustainable Development

The scale of the problem is better understood than ever. Cost-effective solutions for addressing it exist. It is becoming increasingly apparent that successful development will not take place without addressing mental health. The time is right to consider what the UK is currently doing to improve mental health globally and whether UK expertise and resources could be more effectively used to meet this challenge.

Mental health problems account for almost 13 per cent of the world’s total disease burden, affect up to 10 per cent of people across the life course at any one time, and make up over a quarter of the years people live with disability globally. This costs the world some US$2.5 trillion per year, yet the amount invested in treating mental health problems is barely a fraction of this – less than two per cent of the health spending in most low and lower-middle income countries. Depression, substance abuse, schizophrenia, learning disabilities and other common conditions are not simply ‘Western issues’. Almost three quarters of people with mental health problems live in low and middle income countries4 and receive little or no evidence-based treatment. This report sets out three important arguments why mental health matters globally and why development activity will not be truly successful without tackling mental health issues: