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Mental health neglected by governments and aid community - new report

Written by Jessica Mackenzie

Even though mental health affects one in four people, most countries struggle to properly tackle the issue and it remains neglected by the development aid community and donors says new report by leading UK think tank the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the Mental Health Innovation Network (MHIN).

Mental health is underfunded and largely ignored in developing countries says the report. It was absent from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the poorest countries dedicate just 0.5% of their health budgets to mental health.

In 2013 the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its 194 member states committed to a mental health action plan with targets – e.g. reducing rates of suicide by 10 % and increasing services for people with severe mental disorders by 20 % – but without a formal funding structure to implement the plan.

The stigma of mental health and the unique nature of each person’s experience and treatment makes it difficult to develop a single succinct way to tackle the issue says the report.

“There are many types of mental, neurological and substance use disorders which require therapy or medicine, a combination of the two or other forms of treatment," said ODI Research Fellow Jessica Mackenzie.

In poorer countries, care for people is usually provided by family members or their community says the report, and this leads to an under-diagnosis and a lack of evidence of what works in terms of care and recovery.

The report also highlights the low public profile of mental health on the global stage.

“People come together and protest for funding and attention for health issues such as HIV/AIDS or Ebola. We haven’t yet seen big scale global mental health movements. This is what we need to make mental health mainstream,” said Ms Mackenzie.

As the global aid community moves towards the end of the MDGs in 2015, the report calls for mental health to be included in the new framework, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Giving mental health the attention it deserves in the SDGs will result in much-needed social recognition, policy traction and proper funding from the aid community,” added Ms Mackenzie.

“The WHO’s mental health action plan is a necessary first step. It is vitally important governments now stick to the targets” added Ms Mackenzie.

To read the report ‘Global mental health from a policy perspective’ or to interview the author please contact Clare Price on 07808791265 or [email protected]

Note to the editors:
The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) is tonight launching a new report on Global Health and the APPG on Mental Health 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.

The report was funded by Grand Challenges Canada.