Mental Illness Facts

Mental Health vs Mental Illness

Mental health is our mental well-being; our emotions, our thoughts and feelings, our ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties, our social connections and our understanding of the world around us.

Mental illness affects that way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others.  There are many different mental illness and they have different symptoms that impact peoples’ lives in different lives.  Poor mental health can result to mental illness.


  1. Mental illness is a highly prevalent, life-threatening disease that affects millions of people all around the world.
  • Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease.¹
  • By 2020, behavioral health disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide. ²
  • One in four people – about 450 million people worldwide – suffer from mental disorders in both developed and developing countries,¹ including:
    • 60 million from bi-polar disorder; and
    • 21 million from schizophrenia

Sources: ¹ World Health Organization   ² SAMHSA, 2010

  1. Mental illness strikes the young and often goes 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 25.¹
    • Few get help: 76-85% of serious cases went untreated in low and middle income countries, 35-50% of cases in high income countries.¹
    • There are pervasive delays in getting treatment: the median across disorders is about 10 years, contributing to greater severity, co-occurrence of mental illnesses, and lower success rates as people age.¹

Source: ¹ Prevalence, Severity, and Unmet Need for Treatment of Mental Disorders, World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys, June 2004, Journal of the American Medical Association

  1. Mental illness threatens lives everywhere; suicide claims a life every 90 seconds.
    • Every day, nearly 2,200 people in the world − some 800,000 each year − commit suicide.¹
    • In 90% of suicides, mental illness is the attributing cause.²
    • Globally, more than twice as many people die from suicide as die from homicide each year.¹
    • Suicide is the second-largest source of mortality for people aged 15-29, topped only by traffic accidents.

Sources:  ¹ 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   ² American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

  1. Mental illness has a significant impact on human productivity.
    • Mental illnesses and behavioral disorders account for 26% of the time lost to disability – significantly more than any other kind of disease. ¹

Sources: ¹ World Health Organization  ² 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

  1. Mental illness has a staggering impact on the global economy: about $2.5 trillion/year today.
    • By 2030, that amount will increase to around $6 trillion a year – more than heart disease and more than cancer, diabetes and respiratory diseases combined. ¹
    • Mental disorders often lead to other health and societal problems – HIV, heart and pulmonary diseases, diabetes and increased risk of homelessness, poverty, incarceration or institutionalization – further adding to the economic burden.

Source: ¹ Source: 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

  1. There are inadequate resources available for combating mental illness, despite its huge impact on human productivity and life.
    • At the government level, mental illness accounts for over 20% of all health care costs globally, but the median amount that countries spend on mental health equals less than 3% of the median they spend for all health care.1,2 Many countries have no dedicated  mental health care budget at all.¹
    • At the philanthropic level, the stigma associated with mental illness creates a vicious cycle of alienation and discrimination, resulting in social/political isolation and inadequate treatment approaches and resources within the community.
    • Despite a higher death rate, mental illnesses receive a fraction of the charitable donations made to combat cancer or HIV/AIDS.

Source:  ¹ World Health Organization

  1. 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.¹

Source: ¹ World Health Organization