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Mental health funding and the SDGs: what now and who pays?

Research reports

Written by Jessica Mackenzie

Mental disorders affect one in four of us over a lifetime. They represent a huge cost to our health care systems and to the global economy, and affect some of the world’s most vulnerable people, through stigma and lack of understanding.

In 2015 the world took a huge step forward by including mental health in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set the global agenda for the next three decades. But despite the huge burden it places on global health, it receives a fraction of the funding of other diseases.

In fact, it is underfunded no matter what you compare it to; more is spent on takeaway coffee in a single week in the UK than is spent on development assistance for mental health in low- and middle-income countries in a year.

This report provides an overview of who is currently funding mental health and who isn’t, but could be. It is a synthesis of research previously conducted in this field and analyses both existing and new funders. It highlights how little information there is on what donors are spending on mental health globally, what types of activities are funded and why funding mental health delivers a variety of benefits, and it suggests how to frame the issue to encourage more investment. 

Strong momentum has been created thanks to a select few efforts, but if any real progress is to be made, we need to prioritise funding as a matter of urgency.

Jessica Mackenzie, Christie Kesner