Human rights

Evolving effort

  • Global mental health is not about imposing Western hegemony, but about creating a global community to address differing mental health needs.

    In the last two articles, I wrote about global mental health and transcultural psychiatry. Global debates are already underway in defining and understanding these issues. But I have noticed that in many discussions, especially among the proponents of transcultural psychiatry, global mental health is misunderstood and misinterpreted. In the last five years, a lot has changed locally and globally in the mental health sector. Having been a part of the Movement for Global Mental Health from its initial days, I have watched an idea evolve into an international movement. And while there is always room for improvement, I have no doubt that that the Movement carries immense potential to bring effective change in the mental health sector all over the world. Some of the reasons are outlined below...


Local filmmaker spotlights global mental health agenda

Bellevue Reporter Staff writer 
MAY 10, 2013 · UPDATED 7:08 PM 

When Patricia first met Jeff on the streets of Bellevue, he'd been homeless and living undiagnosed with severe mental illness for nearly 10 years. Though he had family in the area, they wanted nothing to do with him, Jeff somberly recounts for the camera.

“We live in the richest city in Washington state. If there had been a stray dog on the street, we wouldn't have left it,” says Patricia.

And so despite the reluctance of her grown daughter and family, she took him in.

Jeff and Patricia's is one of several stories explored in “Hidden Pictures,” a documentary, six-years in the making, about mental health care systems the world over. Many of the narratives hit close to home. The film debuted Sunday at Seattle True Independent Film Festival (STIFF) and follows families in India, China, South Africa, France and Bellevue's own backyard. It's not the first time local director and filmmaker Delaney Ruston, has taken on the topic of mental health.


Published on Jun 3, 2013

Chris Underhill of BasicNeeds Accepts the Skoll Award

Chris Underhill of BasicNeeds accepts the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship at the 2013 Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England. 

Children and War

29 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 07 June 2013

It's a common misconception that children, unlike adults, are so resilient that they can bounce back from the emotional and psychological impact of war and conflict. The evidence contradicts this and world experts in the field warn that, while some children do recover fully from exposure to the horrors of war, others experience long-term mental health problems. 

As the war and fighting in Syria continues to claim more lives and destroy many others, Claudia Hammond reports from Jordan on how this latest conflict is exposing yet another generation to the traumatic impact of violence, killing and loss. She investigates what actually helps to alleviate the suffering of these children and prevent a life-time of recurring emotional distress. 

From the Al Zatari refugee camp in the north of Jordan she hears about the scale of the challenge facing international organisations like Save the Children. And she meets a group of Syrian mental health professionals from the Arab Foundation for Care of Victims of War and Torture who, as refugees themselves, are running a mass outreach programme, developed by some of the world's leaders in child trauma at the Children and War Foundation, to teach as many Syrian children as possible, psychological techniques and coping strategies.

WHO issues new clinical guidelines for recognising victims of domestic violence

Alison Caldwell reported this story on Friday, June 21, 2013 18:42:00

BRENDAN TREMBATH: In a new report, the World Health Organization says physical and sexual violence is a global public health problem affecting about a third of women.

The Geneva-based organisation says it can lead to mental health problems, substance abuse and even death.

The report includes new clinical and policy guidelines for health workers dealing with victims. 

June 12, 2013, 5:00 am

Bridging Approaches to Mental Illness in Sierra Leone


About Lens

Lens is the photography blog of The New York Times, presenting the finest and most interesting visual and multimedia reporting — photographs, videos and slide shows. A showcase for Times photographers, it also seeks to highlight the best work of other newspapers, magazines and news and picture agencies; in print, in books, in galleries, in museums and on the Web

"War leaves all manner of scars, and the dusty towns in eastern Sierra Leone still bear the marks of a decade of civil strife.

Cities like Koidu, in the diamond-rich Kono district, were the site of many of the atrocities carried out by rebels backed by former President Charles G. Taylor of Liberia, Sierra Leone’s southern neighbor..."

Globalising Mental Health or Pathologising the Global South?

Mapping the Ethics, Theory and Practice of Global Mental Health

Disability and the Global South

An International Journal

Guest Editors: China Mills and Suman Fernando

Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Movement for Global Mental Health, are calling to ‘scale up’ psychiatric treatments, often specifically access to psychiatric drugs, globally, and particularly within the global South. Amid these calls, others can be heard, from those who have received psychiatric treatments in the global North and South, and from some critical and transcultural psychiatrists, to abolish psychiatric diagnostic systems and to acknowledge the harm caused by some medications. Furthermore, voices have also been raised advocating the need to address social suffering, personal distress and community trauma in the global South in a context of poverty, political violence and natural disasters; and calling for people given psychiatric diagnoses to have their human rights protected by disability legislation.

The Movement for Global Mental Health frames distress as an illness like any other, calling for global equality in access to psychiatric medication. However there is a growing body of research from the global North that documents the harmful effects of long-term use of psychiatric medication and questions the usefulness of psychiatric models (see Angell, 2011; and Whitaker, 2010). This raises concerns; about the ‘evidence base’ of Global Mental Health; about increasing access to psychiatric drugs globally; about the promotion of psychiatric diagnoses such as ‘depression’ as an illness; and changes the terms of debate around equality between the global South and North. What are the ethics of ‘scaling up’ treatments within the global South whose efficacy are still hotly debated within the global North?

There are other concerns about Global Mental Health; that it exports Western ways of being a person and concepts of distress that are alien to many cultures, and imposed from the ‘top down’, potentially repeating colonial and imperial relations (Summerfield, 2008), and that psychiatry discredits and replaces alternative forms of healing that are local, religious or indigenous (Watters, 2010). Alongside this, many users and survivors of the psychiatric system argue for the right to access non-medical and non-Western healing spaces, and to frame their experience as distress and not to depoliticise it as ‘illness’ (PANUSP, 2012). Yet for the pharmaceutical industry – there is a huge financial incentive in both expanding the boundaries of what counts as illness, and expanding across geographical borders into the often ‘untapped’ markets of the global South. This marks a process of psychiatrization, where increasing numbers of people across the globe come to be seen, and to see themselves, as ‘mentally ill’ (Rose, 2006).

This is the context in which this special issue is situated. We would like to invite contributions that are inter-disciplinary and that ground rich conceptual work in ‘on the ground’ practice. We really welcome papers that try to grapple with the complexity and the messiness of debates around Global Mental Health. We hope to explore a range of issues and address some difficult questions, including (but not exclusively);

Issues over access to healthcare and the right to treatment in the global South, and how these debates may be different for mental distress compared to physical illness and disability
Critical analysis of the evidence base of Global Mental Health and the ‘treatment gap’ in mental health care between the global South and North
Global mental health as a disabling practice
Examples of mental health activism and lobbying within the global South as well as resistance
Dilemmas and accounts of ‘doing’ mental health work in the global South, notably in contexts of poverty
The globalisation of psychiatry; accounts of how psychiatry travels, and of whether counter-approaches to mental health (alternative or indigenous frameworks) may travel too
Accounts of alternative ways of understanding health, distress and healing – counter-epistemologies and plural approaches from the global South and North.
Issues around colonialism, imperialism and psychiatry, and of possibilities for decolonising psychiatric practises
The role of the pharmaceutical industry and its connections with psychiatry – the global production, distribution and marketing of drugs – how drugs travel globally.
An exploration of the ethical dimensions of Global Mental Health, and who has the power to set the Global Mental Health agenda.
Should wellbeing and distress be addressed by health policy and medical funding, or be understood outside of a medical framework?
What are Global Mental Health interventions claiming to ‘treat’?
Is there a role for psychiatry within Global Mental Health?
Critical approaches to the Movement for Global Mental Health; can and should mental health be global?
We particularly welcome contributions from those who have lived experience of a psychiatric diagnosis, or of distress, and those who work in the global South, or in contexts of poverty, on mental health issues. Short reports and stories, are equally encouraged alongside longer theoretical papers. Papers should be no more than 8000 words, with an abstract of 150-200 words.

Those wishing to submit an article or express an interest in contributing, please email China Mills Manuscripts will be sent anonymously for peer review, and comments and recommendations relayed to authors through the editors. Instructions on formatting for the journal can be found here:

All contributions should be submitted no later than: 21st July 2013

Sustainable development through global action:

The case for investing in mental health

Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London

27-28 September 2013

Call for Abstracts

Submission Deadline: Tuesday, 30 April 2013

We invite researchers, mental health workers, consumers, clinicians, policymakers, funders, health service providers, caregivers, advocates, and students to contribute to the programme by submitting abstracts for symposia, workshops and oral and poster presentations. Deadline for submission is 5pm GMT on Tuesday, 30 April 2013.



 Titles are limited to 256 characters.

Research Abstracts

Abstracts should use the following structured format:

All abstracts are limited to 2000 characters. Tables, graphs or images may not be included in abstracts.

Non-research Abstracts

Abstracts should provide a background to and description of your presentation. Please include details of the setting/service.

All abstracts are limited to 2000 characters. Tables, graphs or images may not be included in abstracts.

Workshop Abstracts

Abstracts should include an introduction and describe the workshop’s aim, objectives and an outline of its components.

All abstracts are limited to 2000 characters. Tables, graphs or images may not be included in abstracts.


To submit your application, please follow the instructions below.

1. Access the online submission site
2. Register as a new user
3. Log in
4. Create a new paper submission
                 a. Complete all fields (including a text version of both your title and abstract)
                 b. Upload a pdf, doc or docx file containing your abstract
5. Submit your abstract
6. Request an e-mail confirmation of submission (optional)
7. Select the “Manage Submissions” tab to confirm your submission and check its status


The organising committee will review all abstracts. Authors of all submitted abstracts will be notified of the outcome in May 2013. Scheduling information will be sent to authors following notification of acceptance. Accepted authors must register for the forum by 30 June 2013 to confirm scheduling.

In January 2013 the European Court of Human Rights published a judgment in the case of Lashin v. Russia, in which the Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) represented the applicant. Mr Lashin is a person with a psycho-social disability who had been placed under guardianship. He met a woman he loved and they wanted to get married, but could not due to his legal incapacity. When he asked for his legal capacity to be restored, he was confined to a hospital. Mr Lashin was awarded 25,000 Euros as compensation for the violations of his human rights. Watch the commentary from the MDAC Senior Legal Officer.

The Lancet, Volume 381, Issue 9871, Page 979, 23 March 2013
Published Online: 18 March 2013

Zoë Mullan, Richard Horton

The Lancet , we hope, is at least partly known for being committed to supporting global health research and policy. Publication last year of a series of colossal research papers on the global burden of disease was just one example of our enthusiasm. But there is another side to global health—the work of researchers in low-income and middle-income countries who address urgent domestic concerns that don't always make it onto the front pages of general medical journals. The treatment of a little-kno ...

Click here for information on submissions.

Watch The Lancet's Editor, Richard Horton, and The Lancet Global Health's Editor, Zoë Mullan, discuss the philosophy of the new journal. Click here for the video and journal homepage.