Mental Health

July 20, 2016

Mental disorders impose an enormous disease burden on societies throughout the world. Depression alone affects 350 million persons and is the single largest contributor to years lived with disability globally. Worsened by low levels of investment and treatment coverage, mental disorders also have serious economic consequences: depression was estimated to cost at least US$ 800 billion in 2010 in lost economic output, a sum expected to more than double by 2030. The foregone economic output because of mental, neurological and substance use disorders globally, is in trillions of dollars.

Countries are not prepared to deal with this often “invisible” and often-ignored challenge.  Despite its enormous social burden, mental disorders continue to be driven into the shadows by stigma, prejudice, fear of disclosing an affliction because a job may be lost, social standing ruined, or simply because health and social support services are not available or are out of reach for the afflicted and their families. 

In spite of these challenges, there is a growing impatience to move mental health from the periphery to the center of the global health and development agenda. As highlighted in WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, a number of evidence-based, inter-sectoral strategies have been effective in promoting, protecting and restoring mental health, well beyond the institutionalization approaches of the past. Properly implemented, these interventions represent “best buys” for any society, with significant returns in terms of health and economic gains.

To fully realize the goal of universal health coverage across the world, it is critical to integrate  prevention, treatment and care services for mental health disorders, along with psychosocial support mechanisms, into accessible service delivery and financial protection programs. Additionally, health and policy leaders need to identify “entry points” across sectors to help tackle the social and economic factors that contribute to the onset and perpetuation of mental health disorders.

World Bank-WHO Initiative

As part of a two-day series of mental health events, the WBG and WHO will also co-host a high level panel focused on bringing mental disorders from the periphery to the center of the global development agenda. The event is aimed at engaging finance ministers, multilateral and bilateral organizations, the business community, technology innovators, and civil society on the urgent investments needed in mental health and psychosocial support, and the expected returns in terms of health, social and economic benefits. 

The objectives of the meeting include:

  • To present the case for investing in mental health, including identification of cost-effective, affordable and feasible interventions, their integration into primary care and community settings as part of the progressive realization of universal health coverage, and the expected returns on investment in terms of health, social and economic benefits.
  • To identify entry points for renewed action and investment at the country, regional and global levels, including consideration of financing mechanisms for enhanced financial and social protection as well as expanded service access.
  • To mobilize a global coalition for action for scaled up implementation.



Blog: Invisible wounds: Mental health among displaced people and refugees

Nature: The mental-health crisis among migrants

Global Mental Health & Psychiatry Newsletter of the Career, Leadership and Mentorship

Amnesty International: South Sudan: "Our hearts have gone dark": The mental health impact of South Sudan's conflict

Grand Challenges Canada: Mental health funding and the SDGs What now and who pays?

How to Fix a Broken Mental-Health System by Norman Ornstein, The Atlantic

World Economic Forum: Seven actions towards a mentally healthy organization

Lancet Commentary: Time for mental health to come out of the shadows [pdf]

Summary Report: Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority [pdf]

Press Release: Investing in treatment for depression and anxiety leads to fourfold return

Video: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority

Mental Health, Well-being and Disability: A New Global Priority Key United Nations Resolutions and Documents

UN Panel Discussion: Shining a light on mental illness: An “invisible disability”

Save the Date: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority

Mental Health Parity in the Global Health and Development Agenda

Shining a light on mental illness: An “invisible disability”

Bringing Mental Health Services to Those Who Need Them Most

Blog: The zero hour” for mental health

Blog: Mental Health: Time for a Broader Agenda

Blog: Is Violence a Public Health Problem?

Blog:  Is Unemployment Bad for Your Health?

Blog: Healthier Workplaces = Healthy Profits


Patricio Marquez
Lead Health Specialist
World Bank Group
Tel: 202-458-9520

Dr. Shekhar Saxena
Director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
World Health Organization
Tel: 41-22-791-3625

Last Updated: Jul 20, 2016