Mental health is a crucial public health and development issue in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), a region where little progress has been made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In this paper we argue that not only will limited progress in achieving these targets have a significant impact on mental health, but it will be impossible to achieve some of these aspirations in the absence of addressing mental health concerns. We consider the strong relationship of mental health with dimensions of human development represented in the MDGs, including reducing poverty, achieving universal primary education, decreasing child mortality rates, improving maternal health, HIV, environmental factors and improving the lives of those living in informal settlements. With these links in mind, we examine the mental health context in SSA settings and provide some specific examples of best practice for addressing mental health and the MDGs. It is recommended that the role of mental health interventions in accelerating the realization of the MDGs is investigated; further efforts are dedicated to probing the impact of different development projects upon mental health outcomes, and that mental health is declared a global development priority for the remainder of the MDG period and beyond.
International Review of Psychiatry (2010) 22 (6) 624–631 [doi:10.3109/09540261.2010.535509]