Global Mental Health Movement (GMH)

03/01/2007View on timeline


The high burden imposed by mental disorders according to epidemiological estimates coexists with the secondary place of mental health in global health agendas and policies. The Global Mental Health (GMH) movement, which was most visibly launched by the British medical journal The Lancet in 2007, highlights the “treatment gap” between the need for and the availability of mental health services, especially in low- and middle-income countries.


Disputes about technical aspects ultimately concern the conceptual framework that merges mental distress with neurological disorder, the fundamental assumption that mental illnesses are essentially disorders of the brain.

Such convictions about causality (to which we shall return) are relevant for the quest, present in the GMH movement, to reconcile biological universality and cultural particularity. Different cultures have different beliefs about the meaning of mind and mind-body relationships, but it is accepted that brains are basically the same across the entire human species.

Since the mid-1990s, however, and at least within the GMH movement, the universality of disease has become dissociated from the globalization of nosologies and even from the global use of the very notion of “mental disorder.” Thus, noticing, for example, that in low- and middle-income countries “very few patients report feeling depressed” and that most interventions targeting depression avoid the use of the label, two major actors of GMH have advocated not just dimensional approaches to distress but the abandonment of prevalent international classifications in favor of new bottom-up taxonomies that would be elaborated independently of specialist perspectives (Jacob and Patel 2014; compare with Patel and Winston 1994).

Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

About the Movement

The Movement for Global Mental Health (MGMH) is a virtual network of individuals and organisations that aim to improve services for people living with mental health problems and psychosocial disabilities worldwide, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) where effective services are often scarce.

Two principles are fundamental to the Movement: scientific evidence and human rights.

The history of the MGMH began in 2007 with a Call for Action published in the first Lancet series on Global Mental Health. Through volunteerism and collaboration, the MGMH has gradually grown to a stage where members are able to share ideas, initiate activities and seek resources, often in partnership with other members.

Key Objectives of MGMH

  • Improve understanding of the causes of mental disorders
  • Advocate for access to affordable, accessible and effective treatments to improve the lives of people living with mental disorders across the globe
  • Advocate for improved availability, accessibility and quality of services for persons with mental disorders by scaling up services through the fundamental principles of scientific evidence and human rights
  • Promote a human rights, person-centred and recovery approach to mental health care and services

Learn more at the official website:

globalmentalhealth.org/about

CODE THERAPY - a mental health and technology documentary
You can find both articles mentioned by Vidal and Ortega below:

Jacob, K. Stanly, and Vikram Patel. 2014. “Classification of Mental Disorders: A Global Mental Healt...

Patel, Vikram, and Mark Winston. 1994. “‘Universality of Mental Illness’ Revisited: Assumptions, Art...

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Published in 30/01/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

All events in the topic Chap. 3: Cerebralizing Distress:


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