The role of communities in advancing the goals of the Movement for Global Mental Health

Transcult Psychiatry. 2012 Jul;49(3-4):379-95. doi: 10.1177/1363461512454643.


This special section of Transcultural Psychiatry explores the local-global spaces of engagement being opened up by the Movement for Global Mental Health, with particular emphasis on the need for expanded engagement with local communities. Currently the Movement places its main emphasis on scaling up mental health services and advocating for the rights of the mentally ill, framed within universalised western understandings of health, healing and personhood. The papers in this section emphasise the need for greater attention to the impacts of context, culture and local survival strategies on peoples' responses to adversity and illness, greater acknowledgement of the agency and resilience of vulnerable communities and increased attention to the way in which power inequalities and social injustices frame peoples' opportunities for mental health. In this Introduction, we highlight ways in which greater community involvement opens up possibilities for tackling each of these challenges. Drawing on community health psychology, we outline our conceptualisation of "community mental health competence" defined as the ability of community members to work collectively to facilitate more effective prevention, care, treatment and advocacy. We highlight the roles of multi-level dialogue, critical thinking and partnerships in facilitating both the "voice" of vulnerable communities as well as "receptive social environments" where powerful groups are willing to recognise communities' needs and assist them in working for improved well-being. Respectful local-global alliances have a key role to play in this process. The integration of local community struggles for mental health into an energetic global activist Movement opens up exciting possibilities for translating the Movement's calls for improved global mental health from rhetoric to reality.

Publication types

  • Introductory Journal Article

MeSH terms

  • Community Mental Health Services
  • Community Participation*
  • Community-Institutional Relations
  • Goals*
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Mentally Ill Persons
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Poverty
  • Social Environment
  • Socioeconomic Factors