Investing in mental health now could save more than 11 000 lives and gain over 500 000 healthy life years in the next 20 years: MHCC

Investing in mental health now could save more than 11 000 lives and gain over 500 000 healthy life years in the next 20 years by reducing the incidence, duration or severity of leading mental health conditions according to the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MHCC).

Mental health conditions are highly prevalent among young adults in Zimbabwe, and the numbers may be generally underestimated in the published literature which is a cause for concern as “mental health is currently grossly underfunded in Zimbabwe,” according to the MHCC.

Mental, neurological and substance use conditions, including depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, epilepsy and alcohol use disorders, are also highly prevalent worldwide.

According to a report by the MHCC in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “Zimbabwe could save more than 11 000 lives and gain over 500 000 healthy life years in the next 20 years by reducing the incidence, duration or severity of leading mental health conditions.”

This would result in a drastically reduced burden on the community and the economy.

Furthermore, by investing in mental health now, “Zimbabwe could gain economic benefits of US$ 175 million in the next 10 years and US$ 689 million in the next 20 years.”

 The productivity gains that Zimbabwe could make from investing in mental health interventions exceeds the cost of the intervention packages.

The report, titled “Prevention and management of mental health conditions in Zimbabwe: the case for investment” asserts that investing in the mental health of the Zimbabwean population is not only economically beneficial but is in the interests of public health, protection of human rights, equal access and efficiency.

According to the report, “the cost of mental health conditions to the Zimbabwean economy was US$ 163.6 million in 2021, equivalent to 0.6% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

 “Just 5% of those annual costs were on expenditure for mental health, while the vast majority (95%) was the cost due to lost workforce productivity through premature death, disability or reduced productivity.”

 The report, titled “Prevention and management of mental health conditions in Zimbabwe: the case for investment” asserts that investing in the mental health of the Zimbabwean population is not only economically beneficial but is in the interests of public health, protection of human rights, equal access and efficiency.

Although there has been increasing acknowledgement of the important role of mental health in achieving national and global development goals, the MHCC report notes that “there has been little investment in mental health in almost all parts of the world.”

As a result WHO estimates that “mental and neurological conditions account for 28% of the non-fatal disease burden in the world and for 10% of the overall disease burden.”

Although treatable; the challenge in many parts of the world pertaining mental health conditions “is lack of access to affordable, high-quality mental health services.”

It also indicates that “mental health promotion and prevention are also largely neglected.”

This results in “mental health conditions do not only causing individual human suffering but also negative economic impacts at household, country and global levels.”

In order to reduce the burden of mental health conditions, the report recommends that the Government of Zimbabwe adopt a series of actions such as:

“strengthening leadership and governance for mental health, increasing community awareness of mental health conditions, and encourage multi-sector engagement to increase education and awareness of mental health and ensuring that support for mental health in emergencies is built into Zimbabwe’s mental health system and services,” to name a few.

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