The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published World Mental Health Report- the largest review of world mental health since 2001
Mental Health: A state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, to realize their abilities, to learn well and work well, and to contribute to their communities. Mental health is an integral component of health and well-being and is more than the absence of mental disorder.
Mental disorder: A mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behaviour that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes that underlie mental and behavioural functioning. These disturbances are usually associated with distress or impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or
other important areas of functioning.
Mental health condition: A broad term covering mental disorders and psychosocial disabilities. It also covers other mental states associated with significant distress, impairment in functioning, or risk of self-harm.
Just over twenty years ago WHO published its landmark World health report 2001 Mental health: new understanding, new hope.
Through its ten recommendations, the report provided one of the earliest and clearest global frameworks for action on mental health. It called on countries to:
- provide treatment in primary care;
- make psychotropic medicines available;
- provide care in the community;
- educate the public;
- involve communities, families and consumers;
- establish national policies, programmes and legislation;
- develop human resources;
- link with other sectors;
- monitor community mental health; and
- support more research.
Mental health is determined by a complex interplay of individual, social and
structural stresses and vulnerabilities.
Global threats to mental health today include:
- economic and social inequalities;
- public health emergencies (including COVID-19);
- humanitarian emergencies (including conflict and forced displacement); and
- the climate crisis.
Mental health is not a binary state: we are not either mentally healthy or mentally ill. Rather, mental health exists on a complex continuum with experiences ranging from an optimal state of well-being to debilitating states of great suffering and emotional pain.
Just as someone can have a physical health condition and still be physically fit, so people can live with a mental health condition and still have high levels of mental well-being.
In all countries, mental health conditions are highly prevalent. About one in eight people in the world live with a mental disorder. In both males and females, anxiety disorders and depressive disorders are the most common.
Globally, there may be 20 suicide attempts to every one death, and yet suicide accounts for more than one in every 100 deaths. It is a major cause of death among young people.
Mental disorders are the leading cause of years lived with disability (YLDs), accounting for one in every six YLDs globally.
In addition to being pervasive and costly, mental health conditions are also severely underserved. On average, countries dedicate less than 2% of their health care budgets to mental health. More than 70% of mental health expenditure in middle-income countries still goes towards psychiatric hospitals.
At all stages of life, promotion and prevention are required to enhance mental well-being and resilience, prevent the onset and impact of mental health conditions, and
drive down the need for mental health care.
Three types of political commitment – expressed, institutional and budgetary – are needed to drive the mental health agenda forward.
There are three main reasons to invest in mental health:
- public health,
- human rights and
- socioeconomic development.
A major reorganization of mental health services is required. The locus of care for severe mental health conditions must be shifted away from psychiatric hospitals towards community-based mental health services. At the same time, care for common conditions such as depression and anxiety must be scaled up. Both strategies are critical to improve coverage and quality for mental health care. Community-based mental health care is more accessible and acceptable than institutional care and delivers better outcomes for people with mental health conditions.
The report argues for a worldwide transformation towards better mental health for all.
Link to the related WHO news release:
Link to the World Mental Health Report: