Capitalising on change: How can we generate mental health funding?
"This is not just a public health issue — it’s a development issue. We need to act now because the lost productivity is something the global economy simply cannot afford.”
- Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group
The mental health work funded by Grand Challenges Canada (GCC) to date has been impressive. Not least, it includes the creation of important initiatives like this community of mental health innovators – helping mental health researchers, practitioners, policy makers and advocates to share ideas and lessons. GCC also supports a growing list of important mental health projects in the field.1 Several of you on this network are recipients of this crucial support, using it to make a real difference in people’s lives across the globe.
Sadly, there are not enough funders like GCC who prioritise mental health. We do not have the funds flowing in to make the innovations that are desperately needed a reality. Large scale health foundations are yet to be convinced to support mental health, and major development agencies (like the UK’s Department for International Development) spend very little of their overall budget on mental health and do not track what small funding they do provide. Given the plethora of international NGOs working in health, it is dismaying that only a handful of funders are supporting mental health projects.
We know, thanks to the World Health Organization's Mental Health Atlas, that funding for mental health services by country governments around the world is also worrying. Low income country governments spend less than 1% of their health budgets on mental health, and what they do spend in large part goes towards mental hospitals rather than community based programmes.2 In many cases, households who are already struggling, are left to carry the burden.
There is great work being done, particularly by the participants of this network, and the recent World Bank – World Health Organization Out of the Shadows event shows that there is interest for making mental health a priority at the global level. Efforts like the successes being delivered by BasicNeeds, Family Networks for Kids and the Friendship Bench demonstrate that when funding is provided it can make a real difference in people’s lives. Imagine what we could do with proper resources?!
At the request of the Mental Health innovation Network (MHIN), and with funding from GCC, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has written a report on this topic, titled Mental health funding and the SDGs: what now and who pays? Several of the projects in this network were interviewed as part of the research for this report – given you are the people who know the issues best.
The report has four chapters:
- Who is currently funding global mental health?
- Why funding to global mental health needs to change, urgently
- Who could fund global mental health in future?
- Next steps for the sector
It gives an overview of who is currently funding mental health and who isn’t, but could be. It highlights how little information there is on what donors are spending on mental health globally, what types of activities are funded and why funding mental health delivers a variety of benefits. It provides a selection of funders and financing mechanisms that this very community could approach in future, and it suggests how to frame the issue to encourage their investment.
We very much hope that this report is useful to you; MHIN and its membership are the people we want to help most with this work. We welcome your feedback and comments.
The ODI report is being launched as part of UK Mental Health Awareness week, on the 19 May 2016. The launch, titled Mental Health the world’s forgotten crisis, is part of ODI’s #GlobalChallenges event series. We would love support from this network to promote it and encourage you to join the event, given you are the specialists: https://www.odi.org/events/4360-mental-health-worlds-forgotten-crisis.
The report is available here: Mental health funding and the SDGs: what now and who pays?
Image copyright: Bongani Kumbula / ODI