The grand challenges in global mental health

A consortium of social science and medical researchers, advocates and clinicians announced the major research priorities over the next 10 years for addressing mental illness around the world. They call for urgent action and investment. Medical anthropologist Arthur Kleinman, of Harvard University, is a member of the group. Nature carried a report on the consortium’s conclusions.


Depression. Flickr/shattered.art66

Table 2 presents the 25 Grand Challenges related to mental, neurological and substance-abuse (MNS) disorders.

Cross-cutting themes:

  • research should take a life-history approach
  • suffering from MNS disorders includes family members and communities and thus requires health-system changes
  • all care and treatment interventions should be evidence-based
  • environmental factors such as extreme poverty, war, and natural disasters have important but poorly understood affects on MNS

In conclusion, the report notes that the greatest challenge would be the elimination of MNS disorders. A truly great challenge.

But a challenge that is not likely to be met in the next 10 years given the way things are going with the last factor listed above. Therefore, why not devote the bulk of the research funds to addressing the mental health risks from poverty, war and natural disasters? And, on the way, maybe we should do something about poverty and war?

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