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Despite mounting evidence of the negative impacts of mental and behavioral disorders on the health of individuals and societies, the prevention, treatment and care for the many people affected by such problems remains very low in the list of global public health or development priorities. Neglect of mental health themes can be attributed in part to the stigma often linked to mental health, to a lack of understanding of the subject and to resistance among medical professionals and governments to a change in the status quo. Among some there is also a mistaken impression that such problems cannot be treated affordably in developing and transitional country contexts.
At the same time, as a result of research in various arenas, the links between mental health and poverty are becoming increasingly evident. On the one hand, having a mental disorder affects an individuals (and his/her family's) ability to pull themselves out of poverty. On the other hand, sustained poverty can itself result in mental health difficulties, such as depression and other disorders, that can exacerbate poverty or make it difficult to significantly improve one's situation. Given this mounting evidence that psychosocial or other mental health support for people in developing or transitional countries could make a difference to poverty-alleviation, GIP feels that it is now especially important to highlight to governments and other key development actors the role that mental health issues play in both impacting and feeding the cycle of poverty in many countries.
GIP has therefore chosen to make Mental Health & Development Assistance a specific theme of its advocacy activities. GIP is not alone in this work. Through collaboration with supportive groups such as the Global Movement for Mental Health, supportive development NGOs and others, it seeks to raise awareness and expand understanding of the inter-linkages between mental health problems and cycles of poverty.