Policy Brief: Mental health for global prosperity

Policy Brief: Mental health for global prosperity


Summary: It is #TimeToAct

Mental ill-health lowers quality of life, depletes personal and family finances, feeds into the cycle of poverty, and has a potentially devastating impact on the global economy. Every year, 12 billion working days are lost due to mental illness. Between 2010-2030, this will cost $16 USD trillion in lost economic output— more than cancer, diabetes, and respiratory diseases combined. Cost-effective solutions exist, even for low-resource settings, but funding has not been made available to implement them.


While mental illness is responsible for 13% of the global burden of disease, countries spend an average of less than 2% of their health budgets on mental health, and less than 1% of international aid for health goes toward mental health. As a result, we are missing out on the 4-fold return on investment in care for common mental illnesses like depression.


If we do not act urgently to improve mental health—by promoting good mental health, preventing mental illness, and providing adequate mental health care— we put our personal well-being, businesses and economies at risk.

Key Recommendations:

  1. Governments must deliver on commitments under the WHO Mental Health Action Plan, Sustainable Development Goals and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  2. Employers should include mental health in their organizational strategies, proactively identifying risks to mental wellbeing in the workplace and providing necessary support to those who need it.
  3. Funders should increase aid for mental health prevention, promotion and care with a focus on implementation and scale-up to maximize potential return on investment

This policy brief was prepared by MHIN in January 2019 for United for Global Mental Health with funding from the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in preparation for the 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, an event held in Davos, Switzerland between 22-25th of January 2019. 

Cover Photo: Friendship Bench © 2018.


Policy and advocacy