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About Mental Illness

Mental illness is a highly prevalent, life-threatening disease that affects one in four people worldwide, spanning all ethnic groups, religions and economic brackets. More common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease, mental illness is a disease that:

  • Strikes the young, often going undiagnosed and untreated for many years. 50% of those who will ever be diagnosed with a mental disorder show signs of the disease by age 14, 75% by age 25.
  • Threatens lives everywhere. Suicide claims a life every 90 seconds; in 90% of cases, mental illness is the attributing cause. In the US, more people die from suicide than from cancer, homicide or HIV/AIDS.
  • Has a significant impact on human productivity – causing significantly more lost time due to disability than any other medical cause.
  • Has a staggering impact on the global economy – today, about $2.5 trillion/year; by 2030 about $6 trillion/year.

There are inadequate resources available for combating mental illness, despite its huge impact on human productivity and life. Mental illness accounts for over 20% of all health care costs globally, but the median amount countries spend on mental health is less than 3% of the median they spend for all health care. Many countries have no dedicated mental health care budget at all.

The good news: there is hope for people living with mental illness.

  • Mental disorders can now be diagnosed as reliably and accurately as the most common physical disorders; some can be prevented, all can be successfully managed and treated.
  • People can regain their mental health, but not with medication alone. With the right treatment and support, recovery is possible.
  • Thousands of good examples exist around the world of people with mental illness not only becoming integrated into their communities, but also playing a socially productive and economically important role.

The emergence of community-based Clubhouses in many countries around the world is demonstrating that people with mental illness can successfully participate in society through education, employment and other social activities. Accredited Clubhouses offer people who have mental illness hope and opportunities to achieve their full potential.

Sources: World Health Organization and Darkness Invisible: The Hidden Global Costs of Mental Illness, by Thomas R. Insel, Pamela Y. Collins and Steven E. Hyman, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2015 Issue.

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