The provision of mental health services and the promotion of mental health are among the most neglected areas of intervention, both by private philanthropy and international co-operation programs.
Nevertheless, mental health and psychosocial problems are both a consequence and a cause of poverty.
People living in poverty face stressful conditions – fewer education and employment opportunities, adverse living environments and limited access to quality health care. These are factors that place them at a higher risk of developing mental or psychosocial disorders, with no financial resources to obtain proper treatment.
Likewise, people suffering from mental health disabilities have limited access to employment, essential health care and social services. They are also unlikely to complete their education and vocational training.
Furthermore, misconceptions about the causes and nature of mental conditions produce social stigma, discrimination, segregation and violations of basic human rights.
According to the World Mental Health Survey carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO), even in countries with a developed health system such as countries of the European Union and the United States of America, between 50% and 35% of the people with serious mental illnesses receive no treatment.
In most low-income countries, more than 75% of those affected by mental disorders do not receive any care whatsoever; this means that almost 4 out of 5 people in need of treatment of serious mental disorders do not receive any.
In developing countries, government expenditures for mental health are less than 1% of the national health budgets. According to the 2011 WHO Atlas on Mental Health, global spending on mental health is less than 2 US dollars per person, per year, and less than 25 cents in low-income countries. This is far below the estimated 3-4 USD needed for a cost-effective treatment package for common mental disorders. As a result, almost half of the world’s population lives in a country where, on average, there is one psychiatrist or less for every 200,000 people.
Today, only 36% of the people living in low-income countries are covered by mental health legislation. Still, dedicated mental health legislation can help legally reinforce the goals of policies and plans in line with international human rights and practice standards.
We believe mental health promotion has a place in every kind of development program, whether it be education, socio-economic empowerment or health care delivery.