Mental health impacts individuals, affecting them with depression, anxiety or other issues. However, mental health also has a major impact on the way economies function.
Every year on October 10, World Mental Health Day is observed in order to raise awareness for mental health issues and to serve as a call to action for mental health causes. This year, the day’s focus is on suicide prevention.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every 40 seconds, someone dies as a result of suicide. That’s approximately 800,000 people who die by suicide annually. Suicide has become the number one cause of death for individuals age 15-29.
World Mental Health Day is organized by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), and this year, the World Health Organization, the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the United for Global Mental Health are supporting its efforts.
WFMH officials say that mental health and suicide have become significant global issues that must be addressed by multiple levels of the scientific, governmental and professional communities.
“Suicide is a global public health problem that deserves the attention of all the actors in the field of mental health, including scientific and professional organizations, organizations for mental health users and their families, and universities,” WFMH President Dr. Alberto Trimboli says. “It deserves particular attention from national health authorities, since it is their responsibility to craft policies and directives aimed at establishing strategies to prevent suicide and promote the public’s mental health.”
Mental health not only has an impact at the individual level but at the economic level. A Penn State research study found that poor mental health can result in billions of dollars of less total income for the economy. Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics, Penn State, and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, says a single day of poor mental health can result in 1.84 percent drop in the per capita real income growth rate, which adds up to $53 billion less of total income, according to Science Daily.
Already, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has put the costs for mental illness care in the eight figure range per year. For 2006, the organization estimates that mental health care had a $57.8 billion impact on the U.S. economy. However, the total economic impact is more difficult to assess.
The Penn State researchers estimate that, over the next 20 years, the global impact of mental illness could be more than $16 trillion. WHO estimates that $1 trillion is lost every year due to decreased productivity as a result of mental health issues.
Tending to mental health can have a major impact for employers and the economy. A 2016 WHO study found that for every dollar investing in treatment for depression and anxiety resulted in a return of $4, as well as better health and productivity.
“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,” Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, said of the study. “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.”
WHO estimates that 264 million individuals around the world have depression. The number of individuals with mental health issues is reportedly on the rise as the total global number of individuals affected by depression and/or anxiety increased by approximately 50 percent from 1990 to 2013.
“Mental health needs to be a global humanitarian and development priority — and a priority in every country,” said Arthur Kleinman, Professor of Medical Anthropology and Psychiatry at Harvard University and an expert on global mental health. “We need to provide treatment, now, to those who need it most, and in the communities where they live. Until we do, mental illness will continue to eclipse the potential of people and economies.”