Mental Health and Global Well-Being

Mental health is an important aspect of overall well-being, affecting your mood, how you think, and how you interact with others. Having a mental illness can make it harder to work, keep up with school, have healthy relationships and friendships, and take care of your physical health and personal hygiene. It can also make you more likely to have problems with drugs or alcohol. But the good news is that most people with mental illnesses can recover with treatment. Treatments may include medicines and psychotherapy (talk therapy).

Mental illness can affect anyone, at any time, in any part of the world. But some countries are better at providing care for mental health than others. And that’s why it’s crucial to support mental health at the global level.

Many factors can lead to mental illness, including your genes and your environment. Your genes may increase your chances of having a certain type of mental illness, or it may be triggered by something in your life such as a stressful event or relationship. Certain medications can cause mental illness, too, such as antidepressants, sedatives or mood stabilisers for anxiety, and some antipsychotic medicines for schizophrenia or psychosis.

A surprisingly high number of young people experience poor mental health. And the problem seems to be getting worse. According to a new KFF/CNN poll, teen depression rose sharply during the pandemic and is now at the highest rate in over two years. And the survey also found that the share of adolescent girls who reported feelings of hopelessness and sadness – symptoms of depressive disorder – was significantly higher than for boys.

Poor mental health can be very dangerous and even deadly. Drug overdoses and suicide rates are at record highs, especially among young people. And many of those who are mentally ill don’t get the help they need. The vast majority of people who commit suicide have a mental illness, and four times as many men as women die by suicide.

Mental disorders can also have devastating consequences for families, communities and the economy. They can contribute to homelessness, abuse and neglect, addictions, criminal behavior, school dropout, incarceration, poor nutrition, low incomes and unemployment. People with untreated mental illness are also more likely to need hospitalization and be placed in the poorest tiers of the social care system.

Despite the fact that mental health is just as important as physical health, it is often overlooked and underfunded. This must change. We must prioritize mental health by investing in it alongside other essential services such as primary and secondary care, education, social protection, jobs and economic growth. And we must ensure that everyone has access to effective, affordable treatment. Every $1 invested in mental health returns $4 on restored productivity and added value to the economy. That’s why World Bank projects in countries like Cambodia, Guatemala, Mali and Uganda are integrating mental health assistance into their programs. The future of our global society depends on it.