Global Mental Health - What's Up?

This article has been cross-posted from the American Psychological Association's Global Insights Newsletter and is an abridged version of the original article available here.

Recent developments and directions in the field.


Global Mental Health (GMH) is an emerging domain of research and practice that promotes equitable mental health and well-being for all. It is international, interdisciplinary, culturally relevant and multi-sectoral, GMH emphasizes the right to equity in health and encourages healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Specifically, GMH is committed to preventing and treating mental, neurological, and substance use conditions (MNS) especially for vulnerable populations such as poverty, conflict, and trauma and in low- and middle-income countries. Additionally, GMH seeks to improve policies and programs, professional practices and research, advocacy and awareness, and social and environmental factors that affect mental health and well-being (O’Donnell and Lewis O’Donnell, 2016 and O’Donnell and Eaton, 2017).

GMH is advancing worldwide and it would appear that we are shifting into a new phase for GMH as seen in such things as the growing awareness, acceptance, advocacy, collaboration, action and hopefully increased funding for mental health. In an effort to communicate further about advancements in the field, this article highlights events, reports, manuals, campaigns and consortia from the end of 2018 and the first half of 2019. The items highlighted reflect crucial developments and directions – markers – in GMH as well as increased momentum in the field. This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles designed to orient colleagues in mental health and across sectors to GMH. 

Two influential factors for increasing recognition of GMH were the launch of the first Lancet Report on GMH (2007) and the formation of the Movement for Global Mental Health (2008). (For more background information, see the historical notes in the Lancet Commission’s Report of GMH and Sustainable Development (2018) and the GMH overview written by O’Donnell and Eaton (2017)). For continuing updates see the GMH-Map website with links to GMH newslettersGMH texts,  and GMH critiques, as well as Globally Minded for a GMH Events List and the American Psychological Association’s (APA) list of international psychology-related events.

Colleagues across disciplines, sectors and organizations large and small, including the American Psychological Association and its divisions, are encouraged to relevantly connect and contribute to GMH as part of the growing efforts for sustainable development and well-being for all. Many strategic collaborations are possible in view of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and specifically Goal 3, the “health goal,” which includes an explicit focus on noncommunicable diseases and the promotion of  “mental health and well-being” (SDG  3.4).


  • Blue Print Group (BPG) for GMH 
    Funded by the Wellcome Trust and coordinated by United for GMH, BPG encourages “greater global collaboration on mental health advocacy and communications and to enable anyone with a professional interest in mental health and/or in health policy to have a means to link up with others who share this interest.” Since July 2018 the group has successfully developed jointly agreed advocacy and communications messaging to strengthen support for existing and proposed, global frameworks, policies and processes (e.g. the WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage).

  • Speak Your Mind — A Global Campaign for Mental Health 
    This nationally driven, globally connected mental health campaign is coordinated by United for Global Mental Health. It was launched in Geneva on 19 May, 2019. By sharing powerful messages through carefully crafted communications strategies, the campaign seeks raise the profile of mental health, not only to change policy, but to speak directly to the public about mental health. #GoSpeakYourMind #mentahealthforall

  • Lancet Commission on GMH and Sustainable Development, London (10 Oct., 2018). 
    As an adjunct the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit, the Lance Commission on GMH proposed that the global mental agenda should be expanded from a focus on reducing the treatment gap to improving the mental health of whole populations and reducing the global burden of mental disorders. This will be achieved by addressing gaps in prevention and quality of care. A blueprint for action to promote mental well-being, prevent mental health problems, and enable recovery from mental disorders was outlined by the commission. 

Going forward together: The next phase of Global Mental Health

So what’s up with GMH? In sum, the GMH markers above represent many advances on behalf of “mental health and well-being for all” (SDG3). They point to a tangible shift into a new phase for GMH: a collective game changer with serious positive implications for on the ground, community-based improvements in mental health.  We are seeing a convergence of many efforts, the fruit of the labor of thousands of civil society, lived-experience, local and faith-based, business, academic and government colleagues around the world. APA’s commitments to “embrace a global perspective” and to foment a “strong, diverse, and unified psychology that enhances knowledge and improves the human condition” align well with these  joint efforts.

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Photo Credit: "Globe" by Neil Hinchley (licensed under Creative Commons).

Middle East
North America
Central America and the Caribbean
South America
Humanitarian and conflict health
Primary care
Policy and legislation
Human rights
Empowerment and service user involvement
All disorders
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