Global Mental Health

​Global Health is defined as: The health of populations in a global context and transcends the perspectives and concerns of individual nations. It tackles the most important health problems globally based on the concept of health equity and ethics of health as a human right access. Mental health, has become an important part of global health that led to the development of the concept of Global Mental Health. According to the Movement for Global Mental Health website, the initiative started a “network of individuals and organizations that aim to improve services for people living with mental health problems and psychosocial disabilities worldwide, especially in low- and middle-income countries where effective services are often scarce.”  This has now expanded to include all countries that has mental illnesses as a problem needing better, prevention, detection and treatment at the population level.

Traditionally, mental health issues have received less attention or support in the medical setting in general and in low resources countries in specific. This is not surprising given the lack of clear physical signs of the disease or biomarkers to document mental illness compared to other physical diseases. However, the link between physical and mental health has been formally supported through empirical evidence as recently as 2007 (Patel, 2012). The World Health Organization (WHO) endorses this perspective with the phrase: “no health without mental health” (Prince, et al, 2007). The organization advocates for strengthened delivery of mental health treatments particularly in low- and middle-income countries, and implemented the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Program (mhGap) in 2008. This project aims to scale up services for the 75% percent of people worldwide who do not receive services for their mental health issues. Further, 14% of the global burden of disease includes mental illnesses. According to global health and development goals and policies on adolescents, suicide is the third most important cause of death among adolescents and depression is the number one cause of morbidity among those 10-14 years of age (WHO 2012).
There was almost a 38 per cent increase in the global burden for depressive disorders between 1990 and 2010 (Ferrari et al 2013). The authors report that “This has important implications for global health, especially in developing countries where increased life expectancy due to better reproductive health, nutrition, and control of childhood infectious diseases means more of the population are living to the age where depressive disorders are prevalent”.
However, it is important to note the research findings on mental illnesses was based on the rate at which people were diagnosed with clinical mental illnesses, rather than actual rates of such illnesses. In other words, people who live in countries where there is greater access to mental health services are obviously more likely to be diagnosed at a higher rate.

Our initiative takes seriously the call of health organizations and researchers to prioritize global mental health.

“Global health emphasizes global learning; thus, while international health was built on the tradition of what the ‘developed world’ could teach those in the ‘developing world,’ global health emphasizes what all countries can learn from each other and do together to address the health of all the people who must share our planet.”(Patel, 2014)