Skip to main content

Global Mental Health Resources and Services: A WHO Survey of 184 Countries


Data derived from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Mental Health Atlas Project 2011 are presented. These data provide the latest estimates on available resources for the treatment and prevention of neuropsychiatric disorders covering 98 percent of the world’s population. Resources are defined in terms of governance, financing, mental health care delivery, human resources, essential medicines, and information systems. The Atlas project was initiated to guide policy and planning efforts in order to meet the large and growing burden of neuropsychiatric disorders worldwide. Results indicate that 60 percent of countries have a dedicated mental health policy; 71 percent possess a mental health plan; and 59 percent report having dedicated mental health legislation. Median mental health expenditures per capita are US$ 1.63, with large variation among income groups, ranging from US$ 0.20 in low income countries to US$ 44.84 in high income countries. Globally, 67 percent of financial resources are directed towards mental hospitals. The global median number of facilities per 100,000 population were; 0.61 outpatient facilities, 0.05 day treatment facilities, 0.01 community residential facilities, and 0.04 mental hospitals. There are 7.04 psychiatric beds per 100,000 population in mental hospitals in comparison to 1.4 psychiatric beds per 100,000 population in general hospitals. Higher income countries typically report more facilities and higher admission/utilization rates. Three quarters of patients admitted to mental hospitals remain there less than one year. There is a clear pattern whereby greater rates of human resources are observed in higher income countries. Globally, nurses represented the most prevalent professional group working in the mental health sector. User and family associations are present in about two thirds of the countries, with greater representation in higher income countries. Results from Mental Health Atlas 2011 reinforce the urgent need to scale up resources within countries to meet the high and growing burden of mental disorders.


  1. World Health Organization. The global burden of disease—2004 update. WHO: Geneva; 2008.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Saxena S, Thornicroft G, Knapp M, Whiteford H. Resources for mental health: scarcity, inequity, and inefficiency. Lancet. 2007;370:878–89.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. World Health Organization. The world health report 2001 — mental health: new understanding, new hope. WHO: Geneva; 2001.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Saraceno B. Mental health: scarce resources need new paradigms. World Psychiatry. 2004;3:3–5.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  5. World Health Organization. Atlas: mental health resources in the world 2001. WHO: Geneva; 2001.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  6. World Health Organization. Atlas: mental health atlas 2005. WHO: Geneva; 2005.

    Google Scholar 

  7. World Health Organization. Atlas: mental health atlas 2011. WHO: Geneva; 2011.

    Google Scholar 

  8. World Health Organization. Everybody’s business: strengthening health systems to improve health outcomes. WHO: Geneva; 2007.

    Google Scholar 

  9. World Health Organization. Mental health policy and service guidance package: monitoring and evaluation of mental health policies and plans. WHO: Geneva; 2005.

    Google Scholar 

  10. World Health Organization. WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP). WHO: Geneva. Available from URL: (Accessed 8 September, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  11. World Health Organization/Wonca Joint Report. Integrating mental health in primary care — a global perspective. WHO: Geneva; 2007.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Saraceno B, van Ommeren M, Batniji R, Cohen A, Gureje O, Mahoney J, et al. Barriers to improvement of mental health services in low-income and middle-income countries. Lancet. 2007;370:1164–74.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Scheffler RM, Saxena S, Bruckner T, Yoon J, Shen G, Chisolm D, et al. Human resources for mental health: workforce shortages in lower and middle income countries. WHO: Geneva; 2011.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bruckner TA, Scheffler RM, Shen G, Yoon J, Chisholm D, Morris J, et al. The mental health workforce gap in low- and middle-income countries: a needs-based approach. Bull World Health Organ. 2011;89:184–94

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. World Health Organization. Atlas: nurses in mental health 2007. WHO: Geneva; 2007.

    Google Scholar 

  16. World Health Organization. World Health Organization Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS). WHO: Geneva; 2005. Available from URL: (Accessed 26 June, 2012).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Saxena S, Lora A, van Ommeren M, Barrett T, Morris J, Saraceno B. WHO’s Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems: collecting essential information for policy and service delivery, Psychiatr Serv. 2007;58:816–21.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Saraceno B, Freeman M, Funk M. Public mental health. In: Oxford Textbook of Public Health — 5th edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford; 2009.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jodi Morris PhD.

Rights and permissions

Open Access  This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

To view a copy of this licence, visit

The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Morris, J., Lora, A., McBain, R. et al. Global Mental Health Resources and Services: A WHO Survey of 184 Countries. Public Health Rev 34, 3 (2012).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Mental health systems
  • mental health services
  • human resources
  • policy
  • plans and legislation
  • information systems
  • WHO