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Mental health

Removing the stigma of mental illness in India

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
A report on the economic burden of mental illness argues that depression and anxiety disorders cost the world nearly $1 trillion annually. Conversely, every dollar invested in mental health contributes $4 to the economy. Photo credit: TNMHP

April 7 marked the 70th anniversary of World Health Day. This was an opportunity for the global community to redouble its efforts to ensure that all people can improve their health, including their mental health.
 
When his father died, Gopi, a carpenter in rural Tamil Nadu, India was overwhelmed by an enormous mental and financial burden.

Gopi became depressed, left his job, and isolated himself.

As his condition worsened, Gopi’s two younger sisters dropped out from high school to take on farming jobs to support the family.

However, thanks to medicine, counseling, and livelihood support from the Mental Health Program (TNMHP), Gopi eventually rehabilitated himself and got back to carpentry a year later.

With time, he even took out a Rs. 20,000 loan to start his own carpentry business.

Gopi’s experience—and many others’—illustrate how mental health is integral to well-being.

The World Bank recognizes mental health as a key challenge to sustainable development.

A report on the economic burden of mental illness argues that depression and anxiety disorders cost the world nearly $1 trillion annually. Conversely, every dollar invested in mental health contributes $4 to the economy.

Accordingly, the World Bank-supported the Mental Health Program in the state of Tamil Nadu, India that incorporates best practices in mental health from around the world.

The project is an important instrument in addressing the magnitude of India’s mental health challenges, and provides a successful model for the implementation of the national mental health policy and improve mental health infrastructure and care in Indian states.

By closely involving the community, the project reduced stigma and prejudice attached to mental illness and empowered vulnerable people with mental disabilities to gain respect in their communities.  

People with mental disabilities are diagnosed and treated and provided livelihood support through vocational training, self-help groups, job cards, and identity cards to access social benefits.

Depression and its links to conflict and welfare in Nigeria

Julie Perng's picture



Chronic depression affects about 20 percent of Nigerian heads of households, according to the most recent results of the Nigerian General Household Survey (GHS) Panel, which measures indicators from agriculture, welfare, and other areas of life in Nigeria once every two to three years. This statistic is linked to an additional finding that nearly 2 out of 5 Nigerian respondents have been affected by at least one negative event, such as conflict and/or the death of a household member.

Prevalence of deaths through substance abuse, mental health and road accidents differ by region

Emi Suzuki's picture

This blog is part of a series using data from World Development Indicators to explore progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and their associated targets. The new Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2017, published in April 2017, and the SDG Dashboard provide in-depth analyses of all 17 goals.

Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030 – Good Health and Well-being - explores a myriad of causes of ill-health and mortality, and hopes to improve the lives of many through its targets. Two recent blogs by the authors have focused on health during pregnancy and childbirth, and the prevention of some communicable and non-communicable diseases.

This blog turns its attention to other factors that impact people: mental health, alcohol and tobacco, and road traffic injuries and deaths.

Suicide rates are falling gradually in many parts of the world

Mental health is a focus of target 3.4, alongside other non-communicable diseases. Suicide accounts for 8.2 percent of deaths among young adults ages 15-29 globally and is the second leading cause of death after road traffic injuries for that age group.[i] Suicide rates for all ages tend to be higher in Europe and Central Asia and in high-income countries. In middle- and low-income countries, there has been a decline in rates since 2000.

The case for physical and mental wellness programs in the workplace

Patricio V. Marquez's picture



The launching of the iPhones 8 and X and the advent of genomic-based precision medicine for disease treatment and prevention, are new reminders that technological innovation is fueling momentous change in our daily lives. Indeed, as Professor Klaus Schwab, the chairman of the World Economic Forum describes, the physical, digital and biological trends underpinning what he calls 'the fourth industrial revolution', are unleashing changes “unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”  

Resilient youth seize opportunities, build their future

Liviane Urquiza's picture

She was seven when she survived a night of horror. Her home in Nigeria was marked for an attack that night for belonging to the ‘wrong’ ethnic group. My friend and the rest of her family were destined to be killed.
 
But she survived. Her neighbors who noticed the mark alerted them and helped them escape at a time when their other neighbors were being executed and even burned alive. That night, my friend saw a man die in very violent circumstances. The shock was so intense that she could not speak for two weeks.
 

Is technology the way forward for addressing mental health among youth?

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
After an accident at his workplace, Bhoomi, a 26-year-old from rural Tamil Nadu, India, lost interest in work and isolated himself from everyone. His neighbors were at a loss to understand the change in his behavior. He was labeled a “lunatic,” which worried his parents and propelled them to seek help.
 
Mental illness or disability can be a debilitating experience for an individual as well as his or her family. People not only have to deal with the physical and biological impacts of an illness, but also with the social and cultural stigma that accompanies it.
 
This was what Bhoomi and his family went through before they benefited from the Tamil Nadu government’s Mental Health Program (TNMHP).

In Liberia, providing comfort for kids in the aftermath of the Ebola crisis

Rianna Mohammed-Roberts's picture



The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) crisis ended more than a year ago in Liberia. It resulted in over 10,000 cases and 5,000 deaths. For many children, the crisis continues through intrusive memories of illness, isolation, and death. These memories are particularly acute for the children directly affected by Ebola; those that were quarantined, separated from family during treatment, or orphaned. The Liberia Ministry of Health (MOH) identified 3,091 such children, and a World Bank working paper calculated that approximately 4,200 Liberian children lost one or both parents to Ebola.

The unheard voices of women caregivers for people with mental illness

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
SHG meeting of people with mental illness and caregivers. (Photo: TNMHP)

Thirty-year old Vijaya (name changed) spent 10 years of her life not talking to anybody. Her parents were daily wage laborers, scraping together a sparse living in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu. Unaware of any treatment, and afraid of being stigmatized or shunned by their community, they did not disclose their daughter’s illness to anyone. Instead, Vijaya suffered in silence, confined to the house, and hidden from public view.
 
It was only when the Tamil Nadu government’s Mental Health Program (TNMHP) reached out to their community that Vijaya’s life underwent a dramatic change. After six months of working with the program’s community facilitators, Vijaya’s parents took her for treatment, and within a year, the young woman began interacting with others more frequently.
 
Poor mental health places a huge burden on individuals, families, and society. From developed countries to emerging market economies, mental disability – ranging from common mental disorders such as depression to severe mental illnesses and retardation – has profound impacts on people’s economic and social well-being.
 
As cited in “Out of the Shadows: Making mental health a global development priority” in 2010 alone, depression cost an estimated US$800 billion in lost economic output. What’s worse, these costs are expected to double by 2030.
 

On World Health Day, why I'm choosing to talk about depression

Patricio V. Marquez's picture
Also available in: Español | Français
photo: WHO


This year’s World Health Day carries a particular significance for me and for many others. The theme, “Depression: Let’s Talk,” shines a light upon a problem that oftentimes remains hidden in a dark corner of our minds, trapping us in a painful agony of sadness, loss of interest, and fear. 

Campaign Art: #LetsTalk

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally more than 300 million people suffer from depression. However, less than half of these affected seek and get help. In addition to stigma surrounding depression, one of the biggest barriers why people are unable to seek and get help is the lack of government spending worldwide for mental health services. “According to WHO’s “Mental Health Atlas 2014” survey, governments spend on average 3% of their health budgets on mental health, ranging from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries.”  

Mental health needs to be at the forefront of the humanitarian and development agenda, in order to achieve the set Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments around the world must scale up their investment in mental health services, as the current commitments are inadequate. The study published by “The Lancet Psychiatry” calls for greater investment in mental health services. “We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and wellbeing; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense too,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “We must now find ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live.”


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