Mental health is fundamental to all of us
Mental health is "the foundation for individual well-beling and the effective functioning of a community." Mental health consists of more than being free of an identifable mental illness.  Rather mental health is a vital component of health: The World Health Organization constitution defines health as not merely the absence of physical disease but a state of physical, mental and social well-being. 

Mental illness: A global problem

  • Yet, mental health has not been given priority by donors and governments, particularly in developing countries. Spending on mental health is limited, with less than $2 spent per person globally and less than $0.25 spent per person in developing countries. 
  • Between 76% and 85% of people with mental disorders receive no treatment in low and middle income countries, compared to 35-40% of those in developed countries.
Mental Health and Poverty
Mental health has a strong association with poverty. Those with mental disorders are more likely to slide into poverty while those living in poverty are more likely to develop a mental disorder.

  • A 2003 study (pdf) reviewing 11 community studies on the association of mental health and poverty in low and middle income countries found an association between indicators of poverty and mental health.

Mental Health and Vulnerability
People with mental health conditions are vulnerable and development stakeholders have an important role to play in designing programs to reach people with mental health conditions.

  • A World Health Organization report outlines how those suffering from mental disorders constitute a vulnerable group. 
  • People with mental disorders are experience stigma and discrimination, are subject to violence and abuse, experience human rights abuses, are excluded from participating fully in society, have reduced access to health and social services, and are more likely to experience disability and premature death.
  • There is a need for coordinated action to integrate mental health into health services, education, social services, and economic strengthening programs.
Mental Health and Children and Adolescents
Mental health is particularly important for children and adolencents.

  • Mental illness is the leading cause for disability (pdf) among young people between the ages of 10 and 24. 
  • One in five teenagers under the age of 18 suffer from developmental, emotional, or behavioral problems.  
  • One in eight children suffer from a mental disorder. The rate is one in five among disadvantaged children.
  •  50% of all lifetime mental disorders begin by the age of 14.



Mental Health and Women

Gender is associated with certain mental disorders:


  • Unipolar depression is twice as likely to occur in women, and women are more likely to experience anxiety and somatic complaints. 
  • While biological factors play a role, women are more likely to face risk factors for mental illness, such as gender based violence, low levels of income, or the responsibility to care for others.
  • Gender based violence in particular is a predictor of mental illness:  Rates of depression are 3 to 4 times higher among women who have experienced sexual abuse.

Mental Health and HIV

Studies have long found a link between HIV and mental disorders, and recent studies have validated this link in Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than two-thirds of all infected people reside.