Mental Illness Is the Most Neglected Health Problem in The Developing World
When we think of international aid, we usually picture packages of food, vaccines, and water sanitation systems. Evidently, these are all fundamental needs for a healthy society. However, there's another, equally fundamental, component that is too often overlooked: mental health. Mental health is an underserved cause in international aid for the same reasons it is still a taboo topic in most countries. First off, it has a stigma attached to it. If you suffer from a mental illness, the common conception is that there's something wrong with you, as a person, as a human being. While for more physical diseases, we separate the illness from the person, in case of mental disease it's more difficult to do so. Since the disease affects the mind, this is understandable to a certain extent but, at the same time, it doesn't make it less wrong. Secondly, mental health is perceived as a luxury good. If you suffer from depression, it means you're just a whiny person with all their basic needs satisfied. Doesn't it? Obviously, there's nothing falser than this statement, yet it's worryingly common. Moreover, in the case of international aid, mental health struggles to attract donations also because of a marketing issue. Research has shown that people are likely to donate twice as much if they empathize with a picture, rather than being presented with bare stats. And it's evident how it's much easier to capture a physical disease or a material need in a photo, rather than a mental disease. As an outcome of this cocktail of problems, mental health is one of the most neglected health problems in the developing world. This invisible issue has tangible consequences. It doesn't matter if you could learn a new skill thanks to an NGO project or benefit from a malaria prevention program; if you suffer from a mental illness, the positive impact of these programs is dramatically curbed. The socio-economic repercussions of untreated mental illnesses are devastating.