Mental health and the costs and benefits of treatment are taking center stage at a Washington, D.C. meeting co-hosted by the World Bank and World Health Organization starting Wednesday.
Academic experts, practitioners, development agencies, and ministers of finance are participating in the meeting designed to encourage governments, aid agencies, and civil society to invest in mental health. Organizers say good mental health care can result in real economic benefits.
Nations that have improved their mental health care, such as Brazil, Ethiopia, and South Africa, will present their stories, discussing their particular challenges and solutions.
Authorities from Brazil are expected to describe their psychosocial care network, while Ethiopian representatives are to showcase their country's program of nationwide mental health care training and practice. South Africans will talk about how they made mental health care an integral part of the nation's re-engineered primary health care system.
The series of events is part of the annual spring meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and coincides with the release of a WHO-led study that shows every $1 invested in improving mental health treatment results in a return of $4 in better health and ability to work.
The study says an estimated 10 percent of the world's population is affected by mental health disorders, and in emergency situations, as many as 1 in 5 people can be affected by depression and anxiety.
Calculating the cost of treatment and health outcomes in 36 countries of all income levels over the next 15 years, the study predicted that the cost of scaling up treatment through counseling and anti-depressant medication amounted to about $147 billion. The study says the benefits of better mental health far outweigh the cost, noting that a 5 percent improvement in labor force participation and productivity is valued at $399 billion. Improved health is estimated to add another $310 billion in returns.
The WHO says nations need to drastically upgrade their spending on mental health care. A 2014 survey shows governments spend an average of just 3 percent on mental health, ranging from 5 percent in high-income countries to less than 1 percent in developing nations.