Today is World Mental Health Day. This day has been celebrated annually on October 10th since 1992 to raise awareness and promote dialogue about mental health and the importance of funding prevention, education and treatment services.

This year’s theme is “Investing in Mental Health.” Significant behavioral health disparities continue to persist in communities throughout Texas, the United States, and across the globe. To reach these communities, we need to advocate for increasing investments in mental health, strategically shift current resources toward more effective forms of services delivered through primary health care and community settings, and consider new paradigms in service delivery.

The World Health Organization (WHO) “Mental Health Atlas 2011” finds one in four people will require mental health care at some point in their lives. Yet, globally less than $3 per capita per year is spent on mental health. And, in impoverished countries, that figure is as low as 25 cents.

Some additional facts about mental health from a recent WHO brochure:

  • 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental health condition at some point in their lives
  • The burden of mental health conditions gives rise to huge social and economic consequences to individuals, their families and communities or populations.
  • Almost 50% of all mental disorders begin before the age of 14
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
  • Every 40 seconds a person dies by suicide.
  • Among all disabilities, mental health conditions are associated with the highest rates of unemployment, between 70% and 90%
  • 33% of countries have no mental health budget.
  • 4 out of 5 people with mental disorders in developing countries don’t receive treatment.

WHO is calling on governments around the world to more adequately fund treatment for mental health conditions, and we clearly should endorse that call. It not only makes good sense to improve the health status and well-being of our communities, it may also improve local, state and U.S. economies and reduce overall health care costs in the long-run.