This entry discusses mental health as a cause area. For mental health within the effective altruism community, see effective altruism lifestyle or self-care.
Mental health issues cause an enormous amount of suffering on a global scale, and could be just as promising a target for charitable intervention as many other effective altruist cause areas.
Mental health problems are conditions such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. It is unclear precisely what percent of the DALY burden worldwide they represent. While some research has indicated they make up about 7% of the worldwide DALY burden, other researchers have suggested that the 7% figure may underestimate the true burden of mental health in a variety of ways, and that the actual figure may be nearly double that.
Mental health problems are typically neglected, particularly in the developing world, and there are very few charities working in the area. Giving What We Can conducted an evaluation of Basic Needs, a charity that implements community-based mental health projects, concluding that it was promising but not as cost-effective as GiveWell ’s recommended charities.
Some people care about making everyone happier and more satisfied with their life, over and above treating medical disorders. A few members of the effective altruism community have argued that interventions aimed at increasing happiness may be more cost-effective than global poverty interventions.
Vigo, Daniel, Graham Thornicroft & Rifat Atun (2016) Estimating the true global burden of mental illness, The Lancet Psychiatry, vol. 3, pp. 171–178.
Snowden, James & Konstantin Sietzy (2016) Mental health, Giving What We Can, February 8.
Plant, Michael (2016) Is effective altruism overlooking human happiness and mental health? I argue it is, Effective Altruism Forum, June 22.