There has been recent discussion within effective altruism around global mental health as a new cause area. In the 2018 EA survey, it was included as a potential top cause area, and around 4% of EAs identified it as their top priority . This has led us to think about whether Charity Entrepreneurship (CE) should do prioritisation research on mental health as a potentially high-impact cause area. Many of us at CE have been convinced that this is a promising enough area to investigate as one of the four areas for our 2020 incubation program. In this post, I will explain which factors convinced us to expand our portfolio of cause areas for the next incubation round to include mental health.
Top Reasons to Focus on Mental Health
The huge disease burden of mental illness
On broad considerations of scale and neglectedness, it is shocking to see how little government funding is spent in this area relative to the size of the problem. Self-harm, mental, neurological, and substance use disorders account for 12% of the global burden of disease when measured in DALYs . However, in 2016, the median government spending on mental healthcare was 2.4% of all healthcare spending. This level of spending “represented an imbalance in the ratio between disease burden and efficiently allocated spending, ranging from 3:1 in Canada and the USA to 435:1 in Haiti” . The lack of sufficient government funds dedicated to this issue means that 78% of those with mental illness in high-income countries—and up to 96% in low-income and lower-middle-income countries—do not receive treatment . This massive treatment gap indicates the need for more organisations and funding to solve the problem.