Why we need to solve mental health (globally and urgently)

Why we need to solve mental health (globally and urgently)


Mental ill health is one of the world’s greatest complex challenges. The Thrive Foundation is, we believe, the only organisation in the world that openly believes mental health is a “solvable” problem.

Before we put a man on the Moon or ran the four-minute mile, humankind deemed these goals impossible. Once they had been proven possible, expectation shifted and progress was exponential. The Thrive Foundation believes we can do the same for “solving” global mental health by demonstrating that it is possible, starting in a self-governing island nation.

A global challenge

Mental illness and substance use (addictive) disorders are recognised as leading causes of global distress, disability, and death.

  • The World Health Organisation predicts that mental health problems will be the third biggest cause of disability and death by 2020.
  • Around 450 million people currently suffer from mental and neurological disorders, affecting 1 in 4 people in their lifetimes.
  • Economic estimates of lost productivity are in the trillions every year.
  • Hundreds of thousands of lives are lost every year to suicide.
  • Yet mental illnesses are preventable: for example, up to 50% of cases of depression can be prevented.

The World Health Organization has described the Mental Health Gap – the gap between the needs of the world’s population and the delivery of care. While 14% of the global burden of disease is attributed to these disorders, most of the people affected – 75% in many low-income countries – do not have access to the treatment they need.

“An outstanding opportunity to do good”

Supply of mental health services will never meet growing demand unless there is a radical rethink of the entire mental health and wellbeing ecosystem, and the societies in which these systems occur.

Existing funding processes are inefficient at creating large breakthroughs. By concentrating global intention on one small community, and bringing together world disruptors, innovators and experts, we will accelerate discoveries to eradicate mental illness and addictive disorders.

Mental health has been identified as a priority area by the WHO, and is a United Nations Sustainable Development GoalEffective Altruism and Open Philanthropies recommend similar frameworks for choosing a high impact cause as follows:

  • Importance. How many individuals does this issue affect, and how deeply?
  • Neglectedness. All else equal, we prefer causes that receive less attention from others, particularly other major philanthropists.
  • Tractability. We look for clear ways in which a funder could contribute to progress.

We believe for reasons above, that mental health is a high impact cause.

Together, we can “solve” mental health in one nation as a blueprint for the world

No government can deliver this vision without both community and business support, and reimagining of the major systems: health and social care, education, justice, economics, energy, food and the environment. These systems are all interlinked with each other and with the health of their populations. Mental health is the barometer of these systems.

The Thrive Foundation’s moonshot goal is simple and audacious: it aims to solve mental health in a test-bed nation state by 2020, to provide a blueprint for the world.

How can you get involved? Say hi, join us, volunteer, or donate.

“It always seems impossible until it is done” – Nelson Mandela


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