Mental Health and Neurological Disorders

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Notice about research

Giving What We Can no longer conducts our own research into charities and cause areas. Instead, we're relying on the work of organisations including J-PAL, GiveWell, and the Open Philanthropy Project, which are in a better position to provide more comprehensive research coverage.

These research reports represent our thinking as of late 2016, and much of the information will be relevant for making decisions about how to donate as effectively as possible. However we are not updating them and the information may therefore be out of date.

Impact Summary

  • Importance: 3.5/5
  • Tractability: 2/5
  • Neglectedness: 4.5/5

Charity Impact

  • Cost Effectiveness: 2/5
  • Robustness of Evidence: 2/5
  • Track Record: 4/5
  • Room for More Funding: Yes
Learn More BasicNeeds

Fast Facts

  • Mental Health and substance abuse disorders represent a significant source of global health burden, accounting for the sixth-largest burden of disease in 2013.
  • Overall, mental health is a highly neglected cause, particularly in lower and middle income countries (LMIC), where governments tend to direct healthcare resources elsewhere.
  • There is limited high-quality evidence on the efficacy of mental health interventions, particularly in LMIC. Effective programs would have to be tightly integrated with national governments, limiting the effectiveness of private philanthropic contributions.

Globally, the mental health disease burden is large and growing. In addition, mental health issues are consistently and severely neglected, particularly in the developing world. However, while there exists some evidence that community-based mental health interventions are effective, we do not currently view them as effective relative to our Top Charities.

Due to data limitations, we do not presently have the same level of confidence in the effectiveness of mental health interventions (such as those carried out by BasicNeeds) as we do in other charities. While the solution to mental health problems in LMIC will necessarily involve more funds being committed to direct treatment, another effective way for a philanthropist to have a impact in this area would be to address the broader determinants of mental health, particularly through charities focussed on addressing malaria prevention and economic empowerment.