Editorials

The global response to mental illness

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7365.608 (Published 21 September 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:608

An enormous health burden is increasingly being recognised

  1. Graham Thornicroft (g.thornicroft@iop.kcl.ac.uk), professor of community psychiatry,
  2. Samantha Maingay, researcher
  1. Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London SE5 8AF Health Service Research Department

    The scale of the global challenge posed by mental illness has become increasingly clear in recent years.1 The inadequacy of our international response is only now apparent with the publication of three ground breaking reports from the World Health Organization.

    We know that about a tenth of adults, an estimated 450 million people worldwide, are affected by mental disorders at any one time. They now account for about 12.3% of the global burden of disease,2 and this will rise to 15% by the year 2020.3 For disability alone, without the effects of premature mortality, the impact of neuropsychiatric conditions is starker still: they account for 31% of all years lived with disability. Such averages conceal substantial global variations. In Europe and the Americas, for example, these conditions now make up 43% of the total burden of disability.2

    How far is our response commensurate with these challenges? The WHO has just published the …

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