While the world is grappling with controlling the spread of the novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 outbreak, simply referred to as COVID-19 Pandemic, a telling report titled ‘Return on the Individual’was launched by the United for Global Mental Health. United for Global Mental Health is an international catalyst organisation campaigning on mental health leading the Global ‘Speak Your Mind’ Campaign. BasicNeeds-Ghana leads the Ghana Speak Your Mind for Mental Health Campaign.
The Return on the Individual Report (ROI)launched virtually at the Chatham House , London,in the afternoon of Friday, 17th April 2020with over 500 participants pluggingvia zoom – another strategy to circumvent the challenge of having face-to-face meeting due to COVID-19 it was attended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Director for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders, Dr. Devora Kerstel, the Chief Executive Officer of Unilever, Allan Jope, Myrna Cabotaje, Minister of Health of the Philippines, and Josephine Karwah, a mental health service user and Ebola Survivor from Liberia. The launch was moderated by Robert Yates of Chatham House. ROI is simply making the point that any and every investment made should go beyond considering the financial return but more of the benefits to the wellbeing of the individual. The ROI is seeking a paradigm shift from the long-held thought(s) of investment being in monetary value rather than the long-term gains that will accrue on the individual – better health and active contribution to productivity, incomes and payment of taxes, participation in decision-making and a general wellbeing. This report takes further an earlier reportlaunched at the 2016 World Bank Group Spring Meeting in Washington DC, which was a collaborative efforts of the World Bank, theWHO,Grand Challenges Canada and National Institutes of Health of United States of America which established that there is a fourfold financial return on every one United States Dollar (or the equivalent of that in any currency) invested in mental health.TheReturn On Investment report also highlighted the projectedcost to loss of productivity due to mental illnessbeing 10 billion days annually which translates to a trillion United States Dollars.
Now, the Return on the Individual approach stresses on putting the individual at the centre and not the monetary value in investment considerations. Mental health is also a public good. According to the ROI report “by promoting good mental health,we promote the ability of everyone to fullyparticipate in society, whether in their socialnetworks, workplaces, schools, communitiesor families.” In this regard investing in mental health assures healthy individuals and workers, families and society, for that matter corporations and economies.
The ROI emphasises that mental health has an impact on economic performance, for any days lost due to inability to work results in aneconomic loss. An earlier report by Deloitte (in the UK) lends credence to this view approach of the ROI. The Deloitte report highlights thatthe costof mental health to employers (companies), employees and the workplace, by a combination of absenteeism (mainly being absent due to ill-health) and presentism (being present at work but not performing optimally or even at performing all)cost the corporate world a fortune. Suicide due to work related pressures is becoming pronounced. There seem to be a lot more presentism in the workplace in Ghana and the most plausible reason for sucha situation is the poor mental healthof many workers/ adults (stressful/ depressing burdens that affects performance).
The ROI draws attention to the impact of good or poor mental health on the physical health of the individual, the family unit and the society, three indispensable areas of human beings. Good physical health is inextricably linked to good mental health and the reverse is true. The bonds and happiness of families to a large extent are determined by parents and caregivers mental state. The ROI highlights that children living with parents with mental health conditions are predisposed to having poor mental health themselves. For the wider society, the ROI highlights that poor or good mental health impacts at establishment and maintenance of social connections, pointing out that there is growing evidence that poor mental health is a key barrier to building social connections.
There no gainsaying that the Return on the Individual reportis yet another compelling reason for investments in mental health. Lack of evidence is no longer an excuse. It is this regard that BasicNeeds-Ghana and many well-meaning organisations are drawing the attention of government to improve investments in mental health. The continued funding support of DFID/UKaid to Government of Ghana (GoG) and civil society organisations such as BasicNeeds-Ghana and the mental health user groups established should stir the government to complement those efforts. Comic Relief has also supported to campaign of the Ghana Speak Your Mind for Mental Health. COVID-19 has amply demonstrated the need to invest in mental health to help the citizens of the country overcome the fear and anxiety the pandemic has brought. As GoG fashions out its strategy to realising Universal Health Coverage, mental health should anchor all the strategies outlined to achieve this quest. The time to invest in mental health is now!