How philanthropy could help provide better mental health care

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Elisha London, Founder, United for Global Mental Health (United GMH) & Natasha Müller, Founder, NM Impact


  • Mental ill-health has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet funding for mental health care remains extremely low.
  • Philanthropy has a role to play in funding better care in this area, with younger philanthropists in particular considering it a priority.
  • Mental health deterioration is the issue on which older and younger generations most disagree in this year’s Global Risks Report.

Mental ill-health affects one in four people, and around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents. It has increased during the pandemic, compounded by being the most disrupted part of health systems across the world. Yet funding for mental health care remains extremely low – around 2% of global health funding and currently just 0.5% of philanthropic health giving.

The World Health Organization estimates that of the 1 billion people around the world currently experiencing mental ill-health, more than 80% are without any form of quality, affordable care. Countries on average still spend less than 2% of their health budgets on mental health. International finance to global mental health care in 2019 came to a total of just $160 million.

The G7 Health Ministers recently flagged the impact that the global COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental health. Yet no new funding initiatives have yet been announced to ensure that mental health care forms a critical part of our global recovery. Continuing underinvestment in mental health risks will have global health implications, and also costly knock-on effects for social and economic development. This is particularly significant given that 81% of those affected by poor mental health live in lower-and-middle-income countries.

New coalitions are starting to emerge in response to the global mental health crisis. The World Health Assembly recently brought together 194 countries to approve an updated Mental Health Comprehensive Action Plan, which aims to galvanise global action behind common targets and indicators. In the entertainment industry, The Mental Health Storytelling Coalition aims to change the narrative on mental health in the media, and includes MTV, NBCUniversal, Amazon Studios, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Company and others. A flurry of companies has also rallied to step up the mental health support that they offer their employees and customers.

A graph showing donor funding of various health conditions including mental health
Despite growing need, the funding for mental health care remains extremely low Image: Donor Financing of Global Mental Health, F. J. Charlson, J. Dieleman, L. Singh, H. A. Whiteford

How can philanthropy help?

Philanthropists’ ability to take risks, and to act quickly and flexibly, makes them ideally placed to drive change in mental health care. Recently NM Impact, United for Global Mental Health and Arabella Advisors launched a report into philanthropic funding for mental health care, based on surveys and in-depth interviews with philanthropists.

The report highlighted the ways in which philanthropists can tackle traditional barriers to giving to mental health, with a particular focus on how to support the those working to address the significant need in low and middle income countries. This means focusing on building capacity within the mental health sector; collaborating with public bodies and private sector innovators; and scaling up evidence-based solutions.

It also showed that collaboration among philanthropists remains difficult, not least due to the lack of transparency around philanthropic money. This in turn makes it harder for philanthropists to create the systemic change to mental health care services that is ultimately needed.

Generational change

The research also found that mental health care is an opportunity that resonates particularly strongly with younger philanthropists. In the future, as this ‘next generation’ starts to exercise greater control of their family finances, more funding may be channelled into this area.

This generational focus on mental health within philanthropy echoes the divide that emerged in this year’s World Economic Forum Global Risks report, in which ‘mental health deterioration’ was cited by the Shapers Community (younger leaders predominantly in their 20s) as a leading blind spot for global decision-makers. While the Shapers Community ranked mental health deterioration in its top 5 of 35 global risks for its potential negative impact for the world, respondents across all ages ranked it in the bottom 5 of 35. Statistically, mental health was the global risk on which the generations most disagreed.

We have seen the younger generation increasingly pressure the older generation on climate change. Will mental health be the next global risk on which younger people demand a better response?

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Protecting European consumers: Safety Gate efficiently helps take dangerous COVID-19 products off the market

EU trade agreements deliver on growth and jobs, support sustainable development

European Youth Event 2016 – bridge between youth and policy makers

Civilians ‘must never be a target,’ says UN in Afghanistan, amid troubling number of casualties during Ramadan

Digital business is Europe’s best hope to get back to growth

Australia urged to evacuate offshore detainees amid widespread, acute mental distress

Strict alcohol laws which cut intake more than 40 per cent in Russia, linked to historically high life expectancy

Unemployment and exclusion brings EU cities to boiling point

Cyber-Risk Assessments: the vaccine for companies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Why the global trade of chemicals is key to COVID-19 recovery

These are the world’s best universities by subject

ISIS fighters fleeing Mosul for Syria can topple Assad. Why did the US now decide to uproot them from Iraq?

If we want to solve climate change, water governance is our blueprint

EU revengefully shows no mercy to Cameron by demanding a fast and sloppy Brexit now

Turkey presents a new strategy for EU accession but foreign policy could be the lucky card

The EU Parliament sidesteps the real issues about banks, while the US target the Eurozone lenders

These scientists are using sound waves to filter plastic fibres from washing machine wastewater

State aid: Commission approves € 1.6 billion Polish scheme to compensate companies for damages suffered due to coronavirus outbreak and provide liquidity support

How climate change can be addressed through executive compensation

North Korea missile tests ‘deeply troubling’: senior UN official

A Young student assesses the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

How we planted more than 5,000 trees during the COVID-19 pandemic

Draghi cuts the Gordian knot of the Banking Union

‘Democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people’ must be met urges Guterres, following military removal of al-Bashir from power

5G security: Member States report on progress on implementing the EU toolbox and strengthening safety measures

These are the ‘positive’ tipping points that could slow global warming

EU Budget: A Reform Support Programme and an Investment Stabilisation Function to strengthen Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union

African cooperation on peace ‘increasingly strong’, Security Council told

Why the Greeks forgave Tsipras’ pirouettes around austerity and voted again for SYRIZA

Who can compel Wallonia to unlock CETA, the EU-Canada free trade pack?

EU adopts €55 million support package for Syrian refugees and local communities in Jordan and Lebanon to mitigate coronavirus pandemic

Eurobarometer survey: Majority of EU citizens positive about international trade

Social, cultural diversity ‘an enormous richness, not a threat’ Guterres declares calling on investment for a harmonious future

Plastic waste from Western countries is poisoning Indonesia

EU at UNGA 76: working together to address global challenges

Atomic agency cites concerns over Iran testing sites, offers COVID-19 assistance

EU-China Leaders’ meeting: Delivering results by standing firm on EU interests and values

ILO’s Bureau for Employers´Activities to publish new study on women in business and management

Yemen: ‘A great first step’ UN declares as aid team accesses grain silo which can feed millions

Kids who live in the countryside have better motor skills, a study in Finland has found

Taxation: Commission refers Poland to Court for failing to remove certain tax exemptions on the use of energy products by highly polluting businesses

This project is using AI and drones to track and protect great white sharks

The global issue of migration in 2017

High anxiety calls for innovation in digital mental health

An alternative to the future of antimicrobial therapy

IMF: How To Deal With Failed Banks

World’s most powerful tidal turbine pumps out greener electricity in Scotland

Coronavirus fears may have driven over 300,000 UK smokers to quit

On the Global Day of Parents, UNICEF is urging support for parents to give children ‘the best start in life’

The dangers of data: why the numbers never tell the full story

COVID-19 shows why we must build trust in digital financial services

Can a Bavarian Oktoberfest beer indulger bring down the Berlin government?

Combatting antisemitism requires ‘solidarity in the face of hatred’, says UN chief

EU’s new sanctions on Russia into force “in the next few days”: strength, weakness or strategy?

EU to set up new European Partnerships and invest nearly €10 billion for the green and digital transition

Courage of terrorism survivors underlines ‘urgency’ of UN Investigative Team’s work in Iraq

Women-Friendly Spaces for Rohingya refugees: A place for protection and care

Plans to keep EU budget funding in 2020 in the event of a no-deal Brexit

Most US students aren’t learning about climate change. Parents and teachers think they should

GSMA Mobile World Congress Americas

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: