Thrive – Why We Underinvest in Mental Health

By Shlomo  Maital   

Obama mental health

  My career has been spent largely in Academe, producing ideas and words, words, words.  This is why I greatly admire those who generate ideas – and implement them to change the world.   This is what two creative distinguished British persons, Prof. Richard Layard, an economist,  and expert on labor economics and cost-benefit analysis, and David M. Clark, a clinical psychologist and expert on CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).

    Ten years ago, Layard and Clark joined forces and went to speak to Britain’s newly-appointed Health Minister.  Here is what they said:   “If your bone is broken, you are treated automatically; but if your spirit is broken, you are not.   …Treating mental health problems produces extraordinary savings.  They cost society nothing. The treatments pay for themselves. Yet they are provided to under a tthirdof those who need them.  This is a great injustice and a gross inefficiency.”

     They note that in Britain, 1 of 6 adults suffer from depression or crippling acute anxiety disorder.  In America, more people commit suicide than are killed in road accidents.  The World Health Organization notes that 40% of all illness in the world – is mental illness. 

     And it CAN be treated.  Layard and  Clark note that 50 per cent of those treated with CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy (an effective short-term therapy, in which patients are helped to know and understand their affliction, then engage in behaviors that mitigate or eliminate it),  recover. 

     The best part of all this?  After Layard and Clark’s intervention, Britain’s Health Minister acted, implementing a program known as “Improved Access to Psychological Therapies”,  described in Nature magazine as “world-beating” and copied by other nations.

      Creativity is not just having an idea. It is working with skill, persistence and courage to implement it.  Layard and Clark did. 

       In contrast, we have President Obama, who, like me,  is an outstanding producer of words, words, words, words…..

       For an inspiring account of creative discovery and creative delivery, read their book  Thrive:  The power of evidence-based psychological therapies,   Penguin: London 2014.