The Lancet Psychiatry recently reported that mental illness costs the global economy $1 trillion each year. In the United States alone, it’s estimated to cost approximately $105 billion in lost productivity and nearly $200 billion each year in lost earnings. Approximately 30 percent of total disability costs are due to mental disorders. These numbers have increased between 1990 and 2013 as the number of people with depression and/or anxiety around the world increased by nearly 50 percent. Disasters and ongoing conflicts continue to contribute to these increases. Yet, governments spend, on average, only 3 percent of their health budgets on mental health. For individual well-being and economic security, our nation must continue to prioritize behavioral health and encourage our friends around the world to do the same.
Recently, the World Bank Group (WBG) and the World Health Organization (WHO) brought together international leaders in a first-of-its-kind gathering to establish mental health as a global economic development priority. World Bank President, Jim Kim, and WHO Director, General Margaret Chan, called on the 194 member countries in the WHO to revitalize and expand their commitment to make mental health a global imperative for economic growth.
SAMHSA was also very pleased to participate in the meeting and provided a U.S. perspective on behavioral health. The world beginning to realize something that has long been a core part of SAMHSA’s mission – that behavioral health is essential to overall health.
There is growing recognition that providing necessary treatment and services to people with mental illness brings a significant return on investment. Every dollar spent on mental health programs results in $3-$5 in new economic contributions and years of healthy life.
The issues raised at the event spelled out the opportunities: Nations and donors must realize that mental health is essential to overall health as well as a healthy economy. Making proven mental health services more available will actually reduce cost. Leveraging existing and emerging technologies will make this not only possible, but affordable as well.
During the two-day event, the participants laid substantial promising groundwork. For example, The Rockefeller Foundation has committed to working with the World Bank and others to define a “resilient health care system.” This will ensure that any services put in place will create lasting change in communities that need it. And Director-General Chan announced that the theme of World Health Day on April 7, 2017 will be depression and suicide, to reinforce the global priority on mental health.
I’m encouraged by this global attention and look forward to working with our international partners to improve not only the lives of Americans with behavioral health disorders, but also our fellow citizens throughout the world. Ultimately, better mental health means a better bottom line – for our global economy and our overall wellbeing.