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Research summaries and systematic reviews
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Author: Valentina Iemmi



Mental disorders represent the leading cause of disability worldwide, yet they remain a low global health priority. This paper uses a case study methodology and different data sources (35 interviews and documents) to analyse factors that have shaped the generation of political priority for global mental health over the past three decades (1990–2020) and their changes over time. The Shiffman and Smith framework on determinants of political priority for global health issues is used to organize data into themes: actor power, ideas, political context and issue characteristics. Global mental health has gained political attention, especially over the past decade, yet support remains limited. Findings reveal that actor power is undermined by a fragmented policy community, the absence of one guiding institution or coordination mechanism and little civil society mobilization. Public portrayal of the issue is divided, hampered by the absence of a common understanding by the community and by stigma. Some policy windows have been missed and a strong global governance structure is lacking. Credible indicators and evidence on simple cost-effective solutions, especially in low- and middle-income countries, are scarce. However, opportunities are arising, including an increasing number of leaders and grassroots organizations, multiple arguments for action and integrated solutions resonating with broader audiences, widening political support at the national level, an emerging global governance structure and an expanding evidence base on the scale of the problem and available solutions. The results point to three technical and four political challenges that advocates need to address to increase political support over the next decade.


Citation: Iemmi V (2022) Establishing political priority for global mental health: a qualitative policy analysis. Health Policy and Planning, 37(8): 1012–24. 

Policy and legislation
Middle East
North America
Central America and the Caribbean
South America
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