Full title: ‘Global mental health’: systematic review of the term and its implicit priorities
Authors: Supriya Misra, Anne Stevenson, Emily E. Haroz, Victoria de Menil, Karestan C. Koenen
What do we really mean when we say "global mental health"? What are the implicit assumptions in what geographic regions and mental health conditions get included and which don't? This systematic review of global mental health and its implicit priorities discusses these findings.
The term ‘global mental health’ came to the fore in 2007, when the Lancet published a series by that name.Aims
To review all peer-reviewed articles using the term ‘global mental health’ and determine the implicit priorities of scientific literature that self-identifies with this term.Method
We conducted a systematic review to quantify all peer-reviewed articles using the English term ‘global mental health’ in their text published between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2016, including by geographic regions and by mental health conditions.Results
A total of 467 articles met criteria. Use of the term ‘global mental health’ increased from 12 articles in 2007 to 114 articles in 2016. For the 111 empirical studies (23.8% of articles), the majority (78.4%) took place in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), with the most in Sub-Saharan Africa (28.4%) and South Asia (25.5%) and none from Central Asia. The most commonly studied mental health conditions were depression (29.7%), psychoses (12.6%) and conditions specifically related to stress (12.6%), with fewer studies on epilepsy (2.7%), self-harm and suicide (1.8%) and dementia (0.9%). The majority of studies lacked contextual information, including specific region(s) within countries where studies took place (20.7% missing), specific language(s) in which studies were conducted (36.9% missing), and details on ethnic identities such as ethnicity, caste and/or tribe (79.6% missing) and on socioeconomic status (85.4% missing).Conclusions
Research identifying itself as ‘global mental health’ has focused predominantly on depression in LMICs and lacked contextual and sociodemographic data that limit interpretation and application of findings.