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What is Hindering Philanthropic Progress in the Mental Health Sector?

By Sarah Georg  |  
March 29, 2022  |  
5 minutes read

The lack of indicators in the global mental health sector is hindering its philanthropic progress.

Awareness of mental health issues has grown over time. But the recent pandemic has exacerbated the focus and interest in the subject. Shedding light on these issues is crucial as they have been ignored and stigmatised for most of history. The more people are willing to share their personal struggles, the more normalised the topic becomes. Thus the more resources we can funnel towards the sector.

Global mental health refers to the sector of research and practice that aims to lessen mental suffering worldwide through the prevention, care and treatment of mental and substance use disorders, and good mental health promotion. Focusing research and funding in this sector is imperative to answer the growing needs of society and the ongoing mental health crisis. 

Challenges Faced by the Mental Health Sector

Although there is a lot of interest and talks around Mental Health,  big challenges remain for the sector today. Mental health is still stigmatised in most of the world. There has been some progress in discussions around this topic, but this remains mostly confined to left-leaning or liberal groups. This focus is so recent, there is minimal academic research and groundwork conducted around the sector and its successful practices. As such, the sector is extremely fragmented and under-resourced. 

Mental health is a very complex issue. Its measurement and its solutions are more subjective and abstract than in other sectors. Due to the complexity of “measuring” and “fixing” mental health, funders have often shied away from directing funds. As mentioned in our previous blogs, there has been a significant increase in the need to showcase impact and measure outcomes in the philanthropy sector to attract funding. Unfortunately, this has added a hurdle to the support and funding of the mental health sector. 

Mental Health is a complex subject: defining and measuring it is a struggle. It is less easy to ‘see’ than many other forms of illness, as are the approaches to supporting mental health. Mental health exists on a continuum, ranging from positive, healthy functioning on one end, to severe mental ill-health on the other.

Due to the nature of mental health issues, measuring impact and success is excessively difficult. In turn, this deters funders from investing because they need to report back to relevant stakeholders about the impact their funding has had. If there are no tangible outcomes to showcase, funders will be less likely to support. Ironically, however, the sector needs more funding in order to increase research to determine relevant indicators and measurements for projects. Catch 22? 

Mental Health Measurements and Indicators

There has been more focus recently on measuring indicators for Mental Health. The World Health Organisation has developed the Mental Health Atlas. A compilation of data on the progress and objectives in global mental health. They have also been working on coming up with a globally approved framework and metric system. 

The United for Global Mental Health Organisation has also put together a set of indicators to monitor progress for mental health, in partnership with the WHO. Countdown Global Mental Health 2030 is the first independent monitoring and accountability mechanism. The data is clustered around three themes: Determinants of mental health, Factors shaping the demand (and need) for mental health care and Factors shaping the strength of the mental health system. 

Maanch & Mental Health

We used this set of indicators to help create a Mental Health Dashboard for one of our partner organisations Kokoro. Kokoro is a mental health not-for-profit that runs the Future Mental Health Collective, a global peer-to-peer network that supports individual, family and corporate philanthropists who fund mental health services. They believe in the power of radical collaboration and have asked Maanch to help them along in this journey of convening. 

When asked about the main challenge in getting funding in the Mental Health sector, Kokoro replied “The funding gap in mental health is huge. Despite the increased attention around mental health in recent years, mental health services remain chronically underfunded across the world. Just to give you a couple of statistics… countries on average still spend less than 2% of their health budgets on mental health, and only 0.5% of philanthropic health funding currently goes to this cause.” Our founder carried out some research to better understand why there continues to be such a significant gap in funding. The research showed that the main challenges and barriers currently stopping philanthropists from giving to mental health include; uncertainty around knowing what to give to in mental health; lack of actionable data informing impact; and practical barriers to giving, especially globally.” 

As we have seen, the Mental Health sector still faces considerable challenges today. However, the growing interest and concern around this subject are promising for future research and funding in this sector. At Maanch, we wish to promote funding and projects around Mental Health. If you are a charity currently working on supporting Mental Health and wish to feature on our platform for funding, please contact us at sarah@maanch.com 


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