Mental Health: Think Globally, Act Locally

Accessing mental health care can be a struggle for many people around the world, in high- as well as middle- and low- income countries, and may be intertwined with a host of other, seemingly unrelated difficulties. For example, a recent story on Public Radio International reported that, for men and women with mental illness in Uganda, access to care is one part of the treatment, but securing a livelihood is an equally important next step; yet, few organizations offer assistance, and discrimination against people with mental disorders can reduce opportunities. As the ranks of unemployed and underemployed Americans continue to grow, this story is becoming more common in the U.S. as well.

These global commonalities represent an opportunity for us to learn from the experiences in other countries or among other cultures to help improve mental health care in the U.S. Using the wisdom of global shared experience, along with varied perspectives, might help psychiatry as a field to find reasonable and rational solutions to reduce the burden of mental illness. At the same time, a coordinated, global response to the major problems facing people with mental illness could speed progress toward solutions.

Today, Nature published the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health, a synthesis of the views of more than 400 researchers, advocates, and clinicians working in more than 60 countries on mental health issues. Research specifically focused on solving these challenges could significantly transform the field and the lives of people with mental disorders. This initiative provides many reasons for excitement, but three in particular are foremost in my mind….

Tom Insel, M.D.
NIMH Director

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