Investing in mental health could generate as much as a 4x return on investment.
One of the few silver linings of the devastating COVID-19 ordeal has been the heightened awareness of the importance of mental health. Even when the deadly virus becomes a thing of the past, the rising challenge of mental illness will continue to threaten communities across the globe.
J.P. Morgan’s Philanthropy Centre recently hosted a webinar on The Future of Mental Health Globally, featuring Victoria Hornby (CEO of Mental Health Innovations) and Dr. Shekhar Saxena (Professor of the Practice of Global Mental Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).
We’ve outlined the core learnings from this session below and hope they will help you navigate the complex landscape around mental health and inspire your thinking on how philanthropy can help tackle some of the most pressing issues. Watch the full video replay here.
- The time is ripe. Over the last ten years there has been a significant and much-needed change in the discourse - from talking about treating the mental illness of a few, to talking about mental health for all of us in all settings. This is certainly progress!
- Investing in mental health could generate as much as a 4x return on investment. The global commitments to mental health are impressive and our systems have improved BUT there is still a long way to go and the investments required to reach these goals are inadequate. Specifically, a huge disparity exists between low and high-resource settings. Yet, the return on investment on mental health is very compelling, and this research from Dr. Shekhar Saxena suggests that for every $1 spent on mental health, you get $4 back.
- COVID has affected everyone’s mental health, but young people are particularly impacted. The last 18 months have been extraordinary. 65% of UK charity Mental Health Innovation’s SHOUT service users have been under 25 years old, and 7% are under 13 years. While there are certain positives (for instance some children enjoyed being at home and bullying may have decreased), there was a substantial rise in conversations about self-harming amongst the under 13s and, across all age groups, around 30-35% talked about suicide. 38% of the young people who have used SHOUT are LGBTQ+, which highlights the additional strain felt by these cohorts.
- Digital tools can help. People often look online for their first steps to addressing mental health issues, and we need to make that first online experience much more positive. Even in low income settings, mobile phones are prevalent, and thus digital tools offer us a way to reach even the most remote communities.
- Young people need social media boundaries. Social media plays a huge role in young peoples’ lives. There are many positive aspects of this engagement, but both Victoria and Shekhar suggest putting in place clear boundaries for children and young teens. It is important that these groups don’t have their mobile phones with them all the time, and particularly at night.
- Training and education are key. Mental health awareness should be part of the standard training of all healthcare providers, and particularly frontline workers. All workplaces and educational institutions should be proactive in providing training for staff so that the initial signs of mental illness can be identified, and sources of support can be suggested.
- Excellent philanthropic resources are available. There are great funders and experts to learn from in mental health philanthropy and a plethora of wonderful resources exist to help support your efforts. These include:
- The Missed Opportunities report by the Centre for Mental Health, which provides a comprehensive overview of mental health from ages 0-25.
- A ‘Health in Mind’ toolkit launched by the Centre for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania establishes frameworks and strategies for how philanthropy can better address mental health disorders and addiction.
- Working in mental health philanthropy can be extremely rewarding. Look for an area where you can help to accelerate something you feel is missing - and consider partnering with other stakeholders so your impact can be amplified. Just start, get going and learn along the way!
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