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Return on the individual report

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The Return on the Individual 
It's #TimeToInvest in mental health

The investments we make in life, even in those things we don’t necessarily know or see, shape our world. Yet the structures we operate within usually compel us to ask, “what do we get in return for our investment?” and we answer in dollars and cents. But this does not tell the whole story; the argument is incomplete.

The Return on the Individual report turns the traditional approach to return on investment on its head and, for the first time, makes the wider social and business case for investing in mental health; and for putting people at the heart of investment. It shows that when we invest in mental health, it creates a ripple effect of returns; right across our families, communities, businesses, economies and societies.

Now, more than ever, it’s

#TimeToInvest in mental health.

The Report

The report puts the individual at the centre of the case to dramatically increase investment in mental health and highlights the benefits that can’t easily be quantified in monetary terms

Investing in good mental health brings a huge return: it includes the financial return - it is well established that for every US$1 invested, US$4 are returned.

On top of this, improvement in mental health and wellbeing has its own value - it brings a return in itself for the individual that far exceeds any return that we can count in financial terms.

Executive Summary

For some the vast scale of poor mental health across the world may be hard to imagine. Some numbers can seem so large they can be hard to believe, and the individual person afected gets lost. However, most of us will have witnessed poor mental health and the impact it has on the individuals and their families in our own lives. We may also have witnessed how support to these individuals can dramatically improve their mental health. Such support can be given in a myriad of ways including through health services, schools, the workplace or the community. In this report, the stories of individual people including Timiebi, Graeme, Josephine, Sodkin and Cecelia present the case for investment in mental health that is stronger than standalone statistics and instead demonstrates the return on the individual as a whole.

Key Statistics

  • 264 million people sufer from anxiety and 322 million from depression conditions worldwide.
  • People with severe mental health conditions have a 10-25 year reduction in life expectancy.
  • Half of all mental health conditions start by age 14 and suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29.

But with the right investment, we will achieve huge returns for individuals and society

  • There would be 60 million fewer cases of anxiety, depression and epilepsy between now and 2030 if we increase spending on mental health to recommended levels.
  • People would gain 25 million healthy life years between now and 2030 with adequate government spending on mental health treatment.
  • 200,000 deaths from the conditions of depression, psychosis and epilepsy could be avoided.





Investing in good mental health brings huge returns to individual lives, their communities, businesses and economies, and society at large.

infographic 1


HSBC has empowered me to take the mindfulness course that helped me to help others. Companies stepping up to help people when they face a mental health challenge can mean the world to someone. When you get to a point where you feel like 'maybe this is too much for me', programmes are in place to help you get through that.


The 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia changed Josephine Karwah’s life forever. She was diagnosed with Ebola and went to an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) operated by Médecins Sans Frontières, where she first received treatment and mental health counselling.


Sodikin spent more than eight years in shackles in a tiny hut outside of his family home, until an NGO came to rescue him. He had to be carried out of the hut because his muscles had wasted away so much he couldn’t walk. He stayed at a shelter for seven months while he healed. Sodikin is now the main breadwinner in his family and works in a clothing factory. When someone’s human rights are violated in this way, there is often no opportunity to complain or seek justice for the violations


For my future, I see me embracing more aspects of my life and my mental health, continuing to talk about it everywhere I go.


I felt like the whole world was coming down on me and I thought, ‘I don’t even want to live anymore.”

When Cecilia finally received the support she needed in Ghana, she was able to talk about her mental health, support her family and return to work, so that she can also contribute to the local economy.

Release the returns

Infographics 2

#TimeToInvest - watch and share the video

About Speak Your Mind and the ROI Report

Speak Your Mind is a nationally-driven, globally united mental health campaign, powered by United for Global Mental Health.

The ROI report was conceived at a global meeting of mental health campaigners in 2019 and further developed through the year.


Josh Gorringe - Associate, Lion’s Head Global Partners

Dan Hughes - Executive Director, Lion’s Head Global Partners

Dr Farah Kidy - NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Public Health on project placement at: Centre for Universal Health, Chatham House, London

Christie Kesner - Research Consultant, United for Global Mental Health

James Sale - Policy and Advocacy Manager, United for Global Mental Health

Dr Ammar Saboun - Academic Foundation Year 2 Doctor, Department of Health Sciences, University of York


United for Global Mental Health would like to thank Stephen King, Senior Economic Adviser, HSBC; Shekhar Saxena, Professor of the Practice of Global Mental Health, Havard T. H. Chan School of Public Health; and Charlene Sunkel, CEO, Global Mental Health Peer Network for their advice and guidance throughout the development of this report.

Speak Your Mind Partners

Speak Your Mind is proud to be supported by: