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In recent months, solving the global mental health crisis has taken center stage as organizations re-focus with the urgency, call to action, and dedication that’s necessary to drive innovation.

Experts agree, partnerships between governments, academia, and the private and public sectors, coupled with efforts to change the current mindset on mental health and decrease the pervasive social stigma are all key to bringing life-saving treatments to millions who suffer every day.

Mental health touches everyone

We all know someone who has been touched by cancer, and mental illness is no different. Whether you have struggled with a mental health condition or know someone who has, you know how challenging it is to cope with and overcome.

According to the World Health Organization, one in four people worldwide will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives, while 450 million are currently suffering with conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Untreated, these conditions can lead to suicide, which claims 800,000 lives every year and is the second-leading cause of death among 15-to-29-year-olds.

While more types of prescription medications, psychotherapy treatments, and brain stimulation therapies — to name a few — are available, two-thirds don’t seek help in part, because of the stigma, prejudice, and marginalization that persist and permeate all cultures and socioeconomic statuses.

“We must be committed to transforming global mental health so that we live in a world where illnesses of the brain are seen the same way as those of the body,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Vice Chair of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson.

Moving the global mental health agenda forward

The mental health epidemic not only affects those who suffer day in and day out, but it takes a toll on global health care, the economy, and society at large.

According to the October 2018 Lancet Commission report, by 2030, depression is estimated to cost the global economy $16 trillion a year.

Collaboration between government, academia, and the public and private sectors, therefore, will be key to solving the global mental health crisis.

At the government level, increasing the 2.8% median budget currently allocated for mental health to 5 percent in low-income countries and 10 percent in high-income countries, and increasing global aid to at least $1 billion by 2023 is necessary.

In academia, mental health must be promoted in the same way as cancer and AIDS to make treatments available at a faster pace.

When it comes to the private sector, businesses play an integral role in moving the mental health agenda forward both in the workplace and in their communities. Businesses must broaden their health insurance options and offer mental health and wellness programs to employees and their families. Business leaders should consider teaming up with organizations like One Mind At Work, to put employee mental health and well-being first, reduce costs, and boost ROI.

Hope for the future

In a huge step forward to solve the global mental health epidemic Johnson & Johnson and Wellcome Trust tackled mental health stigma in an event at the World Economic Forum that brought global leaders together, and Wellcome Trust announced launch of a $258 million fund for mental health research and the pursuit of unconventional life sciences.

“Our goal is for every individual in the world affected by mental illness to access effective, affordable treatments, get the support they need and build healthier communities,” said Stoffels. “By working together with governments, non-profit organizations, foundations and entrepreneurs, we can continue to rapidly drive innovations and transform global health.”

Then in March, FDA approved a first in class treatment for treatment-resistant depression developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson that has been shown in clinical trials, in combination with an oral antidepressant, to demonstrate superior improvement of depressive symptoms compared to placebo and an oral antidepressant.

It has the potential to change the treatment paradigm and offer new hope to the one-third of people with major depressive disorder who have not responded to existing therapies,“ said Dr. Stoffels.

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