Lack Of Mental Health Resources A Global Issue

By Beth Leipholtz 10/18/18

"All countries can be thought of as developing countries in the context of mental health,” says a new global mental health report.

hands holding a globe

A lack of resources for those dealing with mental health issues is a major problem around the world, a new report has found. 

The report by the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health, which took three years to compile, was released last week at a London summit. 

The report, which is 45 pages long, details the state of mental health treatment around the world. According to the authors—28 mental health researchers, clinicians and advocates from five continents—there are "pitifully small" levels of financial support from governments and assistance groups when it comes to mental health research and care. 

Low-income communities, according to NPR, are being hit particularly hard. The report states that in developing countries, only one in 27 people with depression receive the necessary treatment. And in countries with more money, the care isn’t necessarily better. In fact, the report states that "all countries can be thought of as developing countries in the context of mental health.”

The financial aspect, according to the report, is the main problem. The Lancet Commission states that funding availability is "alarmingly low” when compared to what was spent on other diseases in 2013 in comparison to mental illness.

For example, for every year of healthy life lost to mental illness, the report found that global health donors had provided $0.85. But for HIV/AIDS, they had provided $144 for every year, and $48 for TB and malaria.

According to psychiatrist Julian Eaton, part of the reason for the lack of funding has to do with cultural differences. 

"In the academic world there has been an ongoing sometimes quite angry debate about whether it's appropriate to export Western ideas about mental ill health to other countries," Eaton told NPR.

The stigma surrounding mental health issues also plays a role. Janice Cooper, who runs the Carter Center's mental health center in Liberia, tells NPR that stigma is a problem in developing and developed countries. 

"There's ignorance, there's the perception of contagion, there's the notion that in some quarters this is not important," she said. 

According to NPR, the Commission recruited 15 youth leaders from around the world to spread messages about mental health on social media and get younger generations discussing it.

Twenty-five-year-old Grace Gatera of Rwanda is one of the 15. She says the conflict in the country resulted in PTSD for her, as well as two suicide attempts. She tells NPR that the government doesn’t make mental health a priority. 

"It'll be like let's deal with this crisis and deal with the crisis that comes after that and maybe when we get time we'll talk about mental health,” she said. 

Eaton says that despite the report’s findings, she and other commissioners were excited to receive the support for the summit from some international and British government organizations in addition to some private ones. They were also encouraged when royals Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, attended the summit. 

"But people are yet to sign the checks," Eaton said.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.