13.5 million lives a year could be saved if mental illness is addressed

Every country in the world is facing a mental health crisis, according to a commission of  28 global mental health experts assembled  by the Lancet medical journal.

The Commission says there is a “collective failure to respond to this global health crisis, which results in monumental loss of human capabilities and avoidable suffering”.

“The quality of mental health services is routinely worse than the quality of those for physical health. Government investment and development assistance for mental health remain pitifully small,” it says in its report.

Previous World Bank research had found that $16 trillion will be lost to the global economy by 2030 due to people of working age incapacitated by mental health problems.

Prof Vikram Patel of the Harvard Medical School, the Commission leader, said mental ill health caused “colossal human suffering”.

He said substantial numbers of deaths resulting from mental ill health were attributed to other causes. Suicides are attributed to deaths from injuries and opioid deaths are considered to be drug misuse instead of being attributed to underlying mental health issues. 

The Commission proposes that the global mental agenda should be expanded from a focus on reducing the treatment gap, to improving the mental health of whole populations and reducing the global burden of mental disorders by addressing gaps in prevention and quality of care.

The Commission outlines a blueprint for action to promote mental wellbeing, prevent mental health problems, and enable recovery from mental disorders.

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