Mental health

Measuring and contextualising disorders

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CHANCES-6 analyses data that use standardised measures of mental health disorders and investigates wider aspects of mental wellbeing, such as resilience, self-esteem, and hope.

CHANCES-6 analyses data that use standardised measures of mental health disorders. We also investigate wider aspects of mental wellbeing, including resilience, self-esteem, and hope.

There is still a lack of understanding about mental health in many low- and middle-income countries. We will be using definitions and key facts from the World Health Organization and the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health to communicate what we mean by "mental health".

The World Health Organization defines mental health as "a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community".

The Lancet Commission describes mental health problems "along a continuum from mild, time-limited distress to chronic, progressive, and severely disabling conditions’. Common mental health problems include depression and anxiety. Rarer problems include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Other key facts about mental health:

  • Current expenditure on mental health in low- and middle-income countries is as low as 1% of total government expenditure on health and less than one US dollar per person.
  • Mental health is a major risk factor for physical illness, injuries, and suicide. Depression, for example, is one of the leading causes of disability.
  • Suicide is the second most common cause of death amongst young people.
  • Mental health problems are shaped to a great extent by a person’s social, economic, and physical environment.
  • Factors that influence the risk of a person developing mental health problems include: biological and genetic factors; environmental factors like war, crises, and disasters; life experiences like trauma, stress, and violence; aspects of family history like caregiver sensitivity, exposure to nurturing, and parenting behaviours.
  • About half of mental disorders begin before the age of 14.
  • Mental health problems are a common human experience and exist in all societies, but the way that societies deal with mental disorders varies greatly.
  • The stigma and exclusion faced by people with mental illness can also reduce quality of life and opportunities, often becoming a major barrier to getting help.
  • In low- and middle-income countries human rights violations such as physical restraint, seclusion, and denial of basic rights are common.