The burden of mental ill-health is significant. Before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, an estimated one in two people experienced a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime, and one in five were living with mental ill-health at any given time. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, levels of mental distress have increased, with prevalence of anxiety and depression even doubling in some countries.

For more than a decade, the OECD has been highlighting the significant social and economic costs of mental ill-health. Mental ill-health drives economic costs equal to more than 4.2% of GDP, some of which are the direct costs of treatment, but more than a third of which come from indirect costs related to lower employment rates and reduced productivity. These costs are can be avoided, at least in part. A good mental health system helps people to stay in good mental health, and connects those in need to appropriate support, helping people to manage their mental health condition or even fully recover from it.

A New Benchmark for Mental Health Systems: Tackling the Social and Economic Costs of Mental Ill-Health provides an in-depth analysis of how well countries are delivering the policies and services that matter for good mental health outcomes. The report presents the OECD Mental Health System Performance Benchmark which responds to a call made in 2017 by OECD Health Ministers, who asked the OECD to help them better understand mental health performance across countries.

The Benchmark is a framework for understanding mental health performance, and includes six dimensions that are critical to mental health performance: from accessible, high-quality and person-centred services, to good prevention and promotion, an integrated and multi-sectoral approach, strong governance and leadership, and a focus on innovation. The Benchmark includes 23 indicators, many of which have been newly collected, which help to assess performance across countries along each of these six dimensions. The Benchmark is a valuable tool to identify key strengths and weaknesses in mental health system performance, and differences in performance across countries, which are detailed in this report. This report also highlights some of the effective policies that countries are implementing, which are already reducing the burden of mental health conditions on individuals, on societies and on economies.

Yet, overall assessment remains hampered by poor data availability. Countries must invest more in developing stronger and more widely available data on the key dimensions of mental health performance to drive faster and more meaningful improvements. In the years to come, as countries will be able to report a wider and better range of performance indicators, and the OECD will continue to support them in ensuring that these indicators are comparable internationally, the Benchmark will become an even stronger tool for measuring and improving mental health system performance. A high-performing mental health system is essential for tackling the high social and economic costs of mental ill-health, and this report helps move countries one step closer to delivering on that goal.

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