Students for Global Health UCL
Global Mental Health
Living in a world where a disease has to be quantifiable to be considered an ‘illness’, we continually neglect the importance of mental health in the global health agenda. Our western-centric approach to healthcare focuses predominantly on the biomedical model of medicine, targeting measurable indicators of disease; so where does mental health fit into this?
In 2007, the Lancet published its first series on Global Mental Health, kickstarting the Global Mental Health Movement (GMHM). The motto of the movement is that there is ‘no health without mental health’. With the aim of improving services for people with mental health problems across the globe, the movement particularly targets low and middle income countries. The two founding principles of the movement are scientific evidence and human rights. But where the main focus is to scale up services to create an overarching global mental health practice – is a universal approach to the problem an efficient or even feasible goal?
The GMHM aims to prioritise mental health within the global health agenda to ensure policies, advocacy and the consideration of mental health issues. Nevertheless the movement raises an important question: what model of the mind will be used? How people from different countries and cultures perceive the mind will influence their attitude towards mental health and thus whilst there is an effort to converge cross-cultural psychiatric practices, one cannot deny that Euro-American traditions still dominate the field. Is this imperialistic? Some would argue so. We are taking a western cultural understanding of suffering and the mind to create a universal approach to tackling mental health problems.
Yet if we can find a way to incorporate cultural validity into our approach towards tackling the inequalities in mental health resources across the world, then there is no doubt that the movement is a great step in the right direction to ensure an improvement in global mental health!