This policy brief is based on research published in the paper Lund C, De Silva M, Plagerson S, Cooper S, Chisholm D, Das J, Knapp M, Patel V (2011) Poverty and mental disorders: breaking the cycle in low-income and middle-income countries. Lancet (2011) 378:1502-14.
Growing international evidence shows that mental ill health and poverty interact in a negative cycle in low-income and middle-income countries. However, little is known about the interventions that are needed to break this cycle.
Interventions are needed that address both the social causes of mental illness and the disabilities and economic deprivation that are a consequence of mental illness.
On the basis of data from two systematic reviews, we found that mental health interventions were associated with improved economic outcomes in all studies. Improvements in economic status thus go hand in hand with improvements in clinical symptoms, creating a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.
We also found that poverty alleviation programmes can have mental health benefits, particularly for conditional cash transfers and asset promotion programmes. This was revealed in the case of individual studies, and thus more studies are needed to generate more conclusive results.
The findings support the call to scale up mental health care and include mental health on international development agendas.
Lund, C.; De Silva, M.; Plagerson, S.; Cooper, S.; Chisholm, D.; Das, J.; Knapp, M.; Patel, V. PRIME Policy Brief 1. Poverty and mental disorders: breaking the cycle in low-income and middle-income countries. PRIME, Rondebosch, South Africa (2012) 4 pp.