Health workforce

Human resources for mental health: workforce shortages in low- and middle-income countries

Human Resources for Health Observer - Issue No. 8

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Publication details

Number of pages: 56
Publication date: February 2011
Languages: English
ISBN: ISBN 978 92 4 150101 9

Mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) disorders account for an estimated 14% of the global burden of disease, yet mental health routinely receives a low funding priority from governments. While evidence indicates there are insufficient numbers of mental health workers in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) to meet the population needs, there are no rigorous estimates of the size of the mental health workforce shortage and the wage bill that would be required to remove the shortage.

This report aims to fill that gap by estimating the number of mental health workers required to treat MNS conditions. In 2005, for the 144 LMIC, there was an estimated shortage of 1.18 million workers, including 55,000 psychiatrists, 628,000 nurses in mental health settings and 493,000 psychosocial care providers. The annual wage bill to remove this shortage would be about US$ 4.4 billion (2009 dollars).

In 2015, if the supply of mental health workers were to remain unchanged from 2005, the shortage of mental health workers would increase by an estimated 45%. To meet the treatment needs for MNS disorders, our analysis provides benchmarks for human resources for mental health well into the future.