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Ben_Todd comments on Mental Health Shallow Review - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Ben_Todd 22 November 2017 06:06:57AM 6 points [-]

Great post, like all the data, and would be keen to see more work like this. I've added a link to it here: https://80000hours.org/articles/cause-selection/

Some more questions I'd be interested in:

1) I'd be interested to see more on how you think it compares to other EA causes all considered, especially the most similar one, global health. I'd start with taking a short-term DALYs and economic perspective, but would also be interested in what a long-term perspective might say about the comparison (I've almost seen nothing about this)

2) I'd be interested to see firmer recommendations for people who have already decided they want to focus on mental health - what are your thoughts on the most promising interventions and career paths?

Comment author: Elizabeth 22 November 2017 04:17:56PM *  3 points [-]

Thanks Ben, this is very helpful as I revise the report.

For (1): my research showed that as bad as the existing options for measuring utils are, they're worse for mental health. I'd originally published this on my own blog to avoid spamming EA Forums, but this is the second time I'm linking to it in the comments so I've posted it hear as well: http://effective-altruism.com/ea/1he/measuring_the_impact_of_mental_illness_on_quality/. You might also be interested in a DALY/$ estimate I made for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction: https://acesounderglass.com/2017/11/20/cost-effectiveness-of-mindfulness-based-stress-reduction/ .

For (2): I'll update the doc to reflect this, but in order of increasing abstraction:

'1. Copy StrongMind's model to other poor countries. A SM representative I talked to said they would be happy to help get other charities off the ground.

'2. Research how to optimize mindfulness, make it palatable to the general public, and expand the circle of people it helps/has been demonstrated to help. I met an organization working on this for business at a conference and am quite excited at the potential for increasing both happiness and productive capacity, although I know nothing about the implementation.

'3. Figure out how to measure subjective experience so we can better compare interventions, within and without mental health.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 22 November 2017 10:53:11PM 3 points [-]

Hey, on (1), cost-effectiveness estimates and wellbeing estimates are useful, but I'd also want to think more broadly about the INT framework side-by-side with global health, as well as other more qualitative arguments on each side.

Relatedly, I can imagine concluding that it's a big and neglected problem, but also one where clear, evidence-backed scalable interventions don't yet exist, so the top priority might be more research to develop better interventions. This perspective might get overlooked if you focus more on cost-effectiveness estimates, but seems pretty reasonable in some of these areas, such as mindfulness.

If that perspective is correct, then the question becomes is it better to scale up proven global health interventions, or do more research into mental health interventions?

Comment author: Elizabeth 22 November 2017 11:02:47PM 1 point [-]

...is it better to scale up proven global health interventions, or do more research into mental health interventions?

That's a great question I don't know enough to answer. I'd love to see general guidelines for deciding on investment in research versus boots on the ground work.