International Health, Volume 5 Issue 1 March 2013 - Global Mental Health Special Issue

Oxford Journals
Publication date: 
1 March 2013

  • Editorial
  • Mark Tomlinson

  • Global mental health: a sustainable post Millennium Development Goal?

The Journal International Health has recently featured a sepcial issue on global mental health, including an article on maternal depression in LMICs and mental health in humanitarian settings authored by CGMH staff members Dr. Charlotte Hanlon and Dr. Mark Jordans and others respectively.

The global lifetime prevalence of mental disorders is between 12.2% and 48.6 %,1 while the burden of disease attributable to neuropsychiatric disorders is more than 13%.2 Over 70% of this burden lies in low and middle-income countries (LAMICs)2 and is projected to increase by 2030.3 Traditionally, mental disorders are seen as contributing significantly to morbidity and less so to mortality. However, suicide is one of the leading causes of death globally for all ages,4 with nearly 900 000 people taking their own lives each year.5 Despite these staggering figures, it has been estimated that in LAMICs as many as four out of five people with a severe mental disorder will not receive any form of treatment—known as the ‘treatment gap’.6 In addition, mental disorders receive little global priority and have not received meaningful visibility, policy attention or funding.7 The World Economic Forum has estimated that the global impact of mental disorders in the next 20 years due to lost economic output is likely to exceed US$16 trillion.8

Low income countries spend about 0.5% of their total health spending on mental health, and while middle income countries spend four times as much on mental health (2.4%), the percentage remains pitiful.7 While the equivalent figure in high income countries (5.1%) is markedly higher, it does not come close to matching the actual burden of mental disorders in these countries.7 At the policy level, as many as 44% of African countries do not even have a mental health policy while 33% do not have a mental health plan.7 However, other regions have shown more progress, as described by Caldas de Almeida in this issue of International Health (p. 15).9 Caldas de Almeida argues that while significant progress has been made …