Unravelling the Global Mental Health Discourse
Doerte Bemme (McGill University)
Paper short abstract:
This analysis of contemporary debates and tensions within Global Mental Health seeks to highlight the ways in which anthropologists can contribute to creating new forms of engagement across disciplines and cultures to provide appropriate mental health care worldwide.
Paper long abstract:
The field of Global Mental Health (GMH) is an emerging formation of knowledge and practice seeking to address mental illness on a global scale. In the past decade, a growing body of epidemiological research has established mental health as a priority for global health research and intervention. Scholars have engaged in, sometimes, fierce debates about the nature and vision of the GMH agenda. The two most polar positions are those who describe GMH as a bottom-up, public health movement driven by local knowledge and priorities, with the aim of providing access to mental health care for everyone, and those who consider GMH to be a top-down, imperial project exporting Western illness categories and treatments that would ultimately replace diverse cultural environments for interpreting mental health. In this paper, we aim to unravel the different scholarly discourses that seek to address controversies and tensions between a public health approach to mental health and a culturally-based approach. We outline the different debates ans standpoints as they were put forth by leading scholars in the field during the 2012 annual Advanced Study Institute at McGill University. Emanating from this analysis, we suggest a critical approach that moves past the seemingly static dichotomies and the disciplinary boundaries in discussing the complex issues emerging within the field of GMH as worldly encounters. Ultimately, we expect to highlight the ways in which anthropologists can contribute to creating new forms of engagement across disciplines and cultures to provide appropriate mental health care worldwide.
Ethnographic perspectives on 'global mental health'