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Mental health, an often neglected disability.

10 July 2018


On the 24th July this year, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), International Disability Alliance and the Government of Kenya are hosting the world’s first Global Disability Summit in London in order to rally global efforts to address disability inclusion in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and lay the foundation for significant progress on a seriously neglected problem.

Mental health disorders are a significant, but often overlooked, disability. Defined as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the stresses of normal life, can work productively and fruitfully, and makes a contribution to her or his community”[1], mental health contributes significantly to overall health and wellbeing. While certain distinctions can be made between mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) conditions, they are all included under the banner of global mental health and arise in “interaction with various structural, social and physical barriers” and “can restrict full and equal participation in society, resulting in psychosocial disability.”[2]

Estimated to affect 1 in 4 people during their lifetime globally [3], mental health conditions account for over 10% of the global burden of disease and are the number one cause of years lived with a disability. Staggeringly, 80% of this global burden accrues to LMICs, with 76-85% those afflicted receiving no treatment whatsoever for their disorder: a key consequence of the acute shortage of health care workers. In the context of the wider development agenda, mental health issues are also a leading contributor to loss of economic output, set to reach $7.3 trillion between 2011 and 2030[4].

With this in mind, THET recognises the urgent need to address global mental health needs in order to meet our vision of a world where everyone everywhere has access to affordable and quality healthcare. Internally our mental health technical task force supports THET to:

  • Increase the availability of and access to quality mental health care, as well as building the capacity of medical professionals, community health workers, educators and medical institutions to identify, diagnose and treat patients in LMICs;
  • Push mental health up the agenda of donors and national governments’ health plans;
  • End the stigmatisation of people with mental health issues, which prevents them from seeking and receiving care, and living a dignified life as equal members of society.

Under the DFID-funded Health Partnership Scheme (HPS), THET also awarded 20 grants to mental health projects in LMICs, reaching a total budget of approximately £1.25m. Since 2011, 5,843 mental health workers were trained and it is estimated that 25,000 people in LMICs have benefitted from improved services as a result. Outside of the HPS and in partnership with King’s College London, THET also introduced Somaliland’s first psychiatry course for final year medical students at Boroma University and established clinical placements on wards across the country.

The international development community, including LMIC governments and donors, must do more, however, to close the treatment gap. We look forward to the Global Disability Summit in anticipation of the progress we can all make ahead.

[1] http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/
[2] https://bmcinthealthhumrights.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-698X-13-17
[3] http://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/
[4] https://www.cgdev.org/sites/default/files/PP68-demenil-glassman-GMH-LMIC.pdf

This post was written by:

Will Townsend - Business Development Officer


  • The Youth Mental Health Project
    28 Mar 2019 12:28
    Thanks for sharing keeper modelling amp information with us. I like your post. Keep posting!
  • Ddumba Isaac
    25 Jul 2018 09:01
    Athough Dementia is not considered under mental health conditions, the number of dementia cases are quite high, especially among the older persons. However, the dementia cases are under reported and suboptimal care exist in Uganda. African Research Center 4 Ageing & Dementia seeks some partnership to advance resaerch and advocacy to improve care for dementia patient in Uganda. Are there some chances of support?
    25 Jul 2018 15:10
    Hi. Many thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, there are no grants currently available, but please keep an eye on our website, this is the platform that we use should new grant schemes become available. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates from THET. Feel free to get in touch again if you have further questions. Thank you.
  • Greg Harrison Gulu Sheffield Mental Health Partnership
    10 Jul 2018 11:44
    Is the THET Mental Health Technical Taskforce open to Uganda UK mental health partnerships to participate or is it solely within THET?
    16 Jul 2018 12:56
    Hi Greg. Many thanks for your interest in the Mental Health Task Force. At the moment, the group is internal to THET. However, it is currently being restructured and therefore I passed on your interest for future opportunities of collaboration. Many thanks.

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