If the availability and quality of mental health treatment were raised substantially around the world, enormous health and economic benefits would be realized in a relatively short timeframe.
That’s the conclusion of a study led by a World Health Organization (WHO) researcher on projected global mental health cost savings from heightened awareness about effective treatment methods. If world leaders would agree to invest $147 billion in better mental health services, the return could exceed $700 billion over 15 years.
Researchers used OneHealth, a tool that calculates treatment costs and health outcomes, to project the effects of increased spending to address mental health issues in 36 countries. The period of the projection was 2016 to 2030.
The research team called their study “a global investment case for a scaled-up response to the public health and economic burden of depression and anxiety disorders.” They proposed spending $147 billion during the projection period to address anxiety and depression disorders.
The economic benefits were in two general areas: longer, healthier lives for those receiving the treatment, valued at $310 billion, and more direct economic productivity gains from these healthier individuals, valued at about $400 billion ($230 billion from those treated for depression, $169 billion for anxiety sufferers). The numbers were based upon a “modest” 5 percent productivity gain by those receiving the enhanced treatment.
Of course making it happen is another matter. The researchers noted that simply spending more does not guarantee specific improvements. Cultural issues (such as treatment by “faith healers and traditional healers” would have to be successfully addressed to achieve the gains among some populations.
World leaders would have to work together to agree upon standardized treatment methods, and treatment would have to be made affordable and accessible, since many people even in industrialized nations don’t have access to the best treatment due to poverty, lack of education and religious and other beliefs.
Yet despite the challenges, the researchers said the battle to reduce world suffering from mental health disorders is certainly worth fighting. Whatever number one chooses to put on the outcome of the increased spending, the end result would clearly be a better world for all.
“The successful treatment of depression and anxiety disorders leads to improved opportunities for individuals and households to pursue their leisure interests, participate more in social and community activities, and carry out household production roles,” their report said.