Wellbeing and Mental Health

Why investment in mental health is needed now more than ever

Good mental health is the foundation of happy, healthy and productive lives Image: Austin Schmid on Unsplash

Elisha London
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Prospira Global
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SDG 03: Good Health and Well-Being

  • There is a crisis of inaction on mental health around the world - and COVID-19 has made things worse.
  • Investing in mental health today isn't just the right thing to do; it will have multiple social and economic benefits, too.
  • This World Mental Health Day, the future of our mental health is up to us. Will you help?

Protecting our mental health is always important. As anyone who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition will know, investing in our mental health is essential to returning to our full potential. COVID-19 has put unprecedented strain on our mental health, whilst simultaneously disrupting treatment and services around the world. Evidence suggests it has increased stress, anxiety, loneliness, depression, substance use, self-harm and suicidal behaviour – yet access to support, especially trained support, has never been more difficult.

At the beginning of this year, the message on mental health was loud and clear at Davos 2020: it is time to invest in mental health. This was before our world changed forever in the weeks to follow.

Our world wasn’t set up to respond to mental health needs before COVID-19 – and it certainly isn’t now. It is estimated 284 million and 265 million people are suffering from anxiety and depression respectively. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally. Yet only around 2% of health budgets are spent on mental health. These alarming statistics show there is a crisis of inaction on mental health all over the world.

Have you read?

The Return On the Individual report, published by Speak Your Mind (a global CSO-led campaign powered by United for Global Mental Health), shows that investing in mental health generates returns for ourselves, our communities, our businesses and our economies. It creates better physical health outcomes, stronger families and increases economic productivity. Healthy workforces are essential for maintaining economic competitiveness. Despite this, up to 20% of the world’s working population has a mental health disorder at any given time. Based on a study of the world’s 36 largest countries, it’s estimated that 12 billion productive days are lost each year due to depression and anxiety, at a cost of $925 billion.

Investing in mental health is not just the right thing to do. As experts have proven time and time again, it’s also good for business. Businesses have the power to create real change, through tackling workplace mental health and engaging in the global conversation around mental health in the workplace and beyond.

COVID-19 is taking its toll on already overburdened and underfunded mental health services in many countries around the world. We need movement on mental health and we need to see mental health as foundational to our recovery from COVID-19. We cannot move forward and rebuild without it.

The latest figures from WHO show more than 90% of member states have seen disruptions in mental health services. And while a majority of member states have included mental health and psychosocial services (MHPSS) as part of their national COVID-19 response plans, only 17% have ensured full funding to cover these additional MHPSS activities.

Scaling up investment in mental health today would make a huge difference
Scaling up investment in mental health today would make a huge difference Image: Speak Your Mind's Return on the Individual report

Back in April, more than 1,000 mental health experts and advocates from more than 40 countries signed an open letter calling on global leaders to integrate mental health into recovery plans. This letter backed the recommendations of the report of the UN Secretary General on COVID-19 and mental health, which were that integrating mental health within COVID-19 response and recovery plans was essential. Over 95 member states supported this same report’s recommendations in a statement to the UN. This World Mental Health Day, campaigners, experts, governments and lived experience advocates are uniting once more to demand movement on mental health.

The question as we go into this year’s World Mental Health Day, given our continuing efforts to tackle COVID-19 and think about the world we want to rebuild post COVID-19, is this: Will our world finally move beyond talking about mental health, and invest in mental health as foundational to our collective COVID-19 response and recovery?

One thing is for sure - the future of mental health is up to us. There could be at least 60 million fewer cases of anxiety, depression and epilepsy between now and 2030 if we increase spending on mental health to recommended levels. People could gain 25 million healthy life years, and 200,000 deaths could be avoided. Countless benefits to individuals, families, communities, businesses and our world could be gained if we invest in everyone, everywhere, to give people the opportunity to reach their full potential.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about mental health?

We can do this by investing in our own mental health, supporting the mental health of those around us and by demanding that our leaders invest in mental health across the world. COVID-19 gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to move mental health forward. By investing now and building mental health into all COVID-19 response and recovery plans, we can build back better.

Please join us and the growing movement as part of this year’s official World Mental Health Day campaign: #MoveForMentalHealth. Share the message among your networks that the time to move is now. Act yourself – commit to make a new investment in mental health. Campaigners around the world will be moving; playing sport, going for a walk, joining in the growing TikTok dance challenge, or marching for change as part of the Global March for Mental Health on October 9.

The future is up to us. Will you join us? It’s time we all moved forward and invested in mental health. Now, more than ever, it’s #TimeToInvest and move for mental health.

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