Tackling mental ill health: The time is now

Shiva Sharma lives with his wife in a small tin-roofed house in Myagdi, a remote village in Nepal. He rears buffaloes and sells milk in the local market as a living. Shiva also lives with psychosis and severe depression and in the past, his condition has often meant that he hasn’t been able to work or support his family.

But, following his participation in community based care and support provided by LEADS, in partnership with BasicNeeds, Shiva is now better able to manage his condition, help his wife run the house and rear their buffaloes. When asked by a health worker on what his hopes for the future were, Shiva said with tears in his eyes. “I want to be a healthy person and lead a normal life as well as support my family.”

Shiva is fortunate to receive care and support for his mental illness within his own community. But there are millions of others in similar situations who have no access to this kind of support. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that nearly 13% of all disease in the world is attributed to mental health, affecting up to 450 million people worldwide at any one time. Depression alone is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. The cost to the world economy is some US$2.5 trillion per year in reduced economic productivity and physical ill-health, yet resources are scarce, with mental health being allocated less than 2% of health spending in most low and middle income countries.

However, there is hope; with the growing recognition that improvements in mental health promote progress across all development agendas; and proven, scalable, innovative solutions exist. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in 2015 finally included mental health as a target within Goal 3 which seeks to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. The World Bank has announced a joint meeting with the WHO in April 2016 focusing on mental health – a first! And at BasicNeeds, as the largest iNGO working to improve lives of people with mental illness in resource poor settings, we are innovating again; testing the application of our BasicNeeds Model delivered under a social franchise approach.

Real change is possible. We urge NGOs, policy makers, global funders and others to join us, invest in mental health and improve lives. 

Follow the coverage of the APPG meeting on Facebook and Twitter #NGOs4MentalHealth.

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