Mental health problems account for almost 13% of the world’s total disease burden, affecting up to 450 million people worldwide at any one time, and make up over a quarter of the years people live with disability. As highlighted in the latest Global Burden of Disease Report, depression is projected to be the leading burden of disease by 2030. Currently 75 percent of people living with mental illness reside in the developing world and only 10 to 20 percent of these people receive any form of treatment.
The cost to the world economy is some US$2.5 trillion per year in reduced economic productivity and physical ill-health, yet the amount invested in treating mental health problems is very small – less than 2% of health spending in most low and lower-middle income countries. In international development efforts, mental illness and epilepsy have, until very recently, taken a back seat to physical health; often being underfunded, misunderstood and considered taboo.
Mental illness and epilepsy can be both a cause and a consequence of poverty and ill-health, often interfering in substantial ways with the ability of affected people to function in families and society. It can also be a human rights and human security issue: with people living with mental illness and epilepsy experiencing daily acts of cruelty and denial of their basic rights; preventing them from exercising choice, pursuing opportunities and planning for the future.