Newspaper article International New York Times

Aid Groups Seek Increase in Mental Health Care

Newspaper article International New York Times

Aid Groups Seek Increase in Mental Health Care

Article excerpt

The first global estimate of the potential returns on investing in treatments for depression and anxiety was released as a conference met in Washington.

Good mental health care is scarce in many parts of the United States, but it is nonexistent in most of the world. In developing countries, the ratio of mental health professionals to citizens is about one in a million -- and most people with treatable conditions like anxiety and depression are left to their own devices, or to the ministrations of local folk healers.

This week, the World Bank and the World Health Organization are convening hundreds of doctors, aid groups and government officials to start an ambitious effort to move mental health to the forefront of the international development agenda.

"The situation with mental health today is like H.I.V.-AIDS two decades ago," Tim Evans, the senior director of health, nutrition and population at the World Bank Group, said Tuesday in a call with reporters. "We are kick-starting a similar movement for mental health, putting it squarely on the global agenda."

The conference in Washington coincides with the publication on Tuesday of the first global estimate of potential returns on investing in treatment programs for depression and anxiety, the most common mental disorders, which are now epidemic in conflict zones and refugee communities.

In a review of data from 36 countries, including poor nations in Africa and Asia as well as affluent countries in Europe and elsewhere, an international research team calculated that every dollar of investment in such programs would bring a return of $3 to $5 in recovered economic contributions and years of healthy life. …

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