The 'global mental health' (GMH) agenda has attained considerable policy influence. However, debates continue about its universal validity. This panel takes an ethnographic approach to how GMH-informed interventions respond in practice to disparate manifestations of mental distress.
This panel takes an ethnographic approach to investigating how interventions informed by the 'global mental health' (GMH) movement respond in practice to disparate manifestations of mental distress. The GMH agenda now dominates academic and policy discussions of mental health in low and middle income countries. Its rise can be traced to specific developments in the 1990s that shaped how the 'disability burden' of mental health disorders came to be measured, and a series of policy and research reports on mental health which afforded direction and impetus to efforts to push mental health up the list of governmental priorities. Today the GMH agenda is backed by the World Health Organisation and has played its part in the continuing worldwide spread of psychiatry's reach. Yet social scientists and psychiatrists have questioned how 'globally' valid some of its concepts and assumptions prove in framing and acting on experiences of mental distress in diverse contexts and social configurations. This panel invites papers that draw on anthropological theory and ethnographic data to comment on, add to, or critique the evidence base for claims on both sides, and consider how these discourses are formed and re-formed on the ground. High on the list of questions we seek to address are: How are GMH policies deployed in diverse locales? What are the effects of these policies on local populations? How is this agenda re-shaping clinical and non-clinical settings? How do GMH discourses transform the interaction between patient and health professional? How does this approach mould health-seeking behaviours?