What is mental illness?

Stories | October 1, 2021

World Mental Health Month in October is an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of access to effective mental health supports and services, and how people experiencing mental health issues and psychosocial disabilities face barriers and challenges to full participation in the community.

In many of the countries where CBM works, people often experience a combination of poverty, unemployment, poor health and unequal access to education. This can increase vulnerability to mental illness and exacerbate existing conditions.

At the same time, many of the poorest countries in the world spend less than one per cent of their health budget on mental health prevention and treatment. As a result, it is estimated that more than three-quarters of people with mental health conditions in low and middle-income countries receive no treatment.

Some of the most prominent mental illnesses include:

  • Depression – According to the World Health Organisation, about five per cent of adults around the world experience depression. Depression is also a leading cause of disability, and if untreated, can become a serious health problem. People who have gone through adverse life events, such as traumatic experiences like disaster events or conflict, are also more likely to develop depression.
  • Bipolar disorder – People who experience bipolar disorder commonly experience both manic and depressive episodes. These episodes can impact behaviour, sleep and energy. About 45 million people around the world live with bipolar disorder, and while it is a lifelong condition, it can be treated with medications and psychological therapies.
  • Schizophrenia – People experiencing schizophrenia can experience delusions, hallucinations and disorganised thinking. Suicidal thoughts and behaviour are also common among people living with schizophrenia. This serious mental health disorder is experienced by about 20 million people worldwide, and professional treatment can help to prevent relapses from occurring.

Mental illnesses are a common cause of disabilities worldwide, and account for approximately one-third of all disability globally, according to the World Health Organization.

CBM works in some of the poorest parts of the world to build an inclusive world where people living with mental illness and psychosocial disabilities can achieve their full potential.

Download and share our toolkit to learn more about the mental health challenges faced by people with disabilities living in poverty

You can support our work to ensure that more people with disabilities and mental health issues can access the support they need. A donation to CBM’s Mental Health programs will support a number of projects focused on reducing stigma and discrimination. We work to increase access to medications and psychological support and aim to bring about long-lasting change to benefit the lives of those challenged with mental health concerns.

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