Where is the global in global mental health? A call for inclusive multicultural collaboration

Transforming mental health for all


Common mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety, account for 45% of the global disease burden on youths aged 15–29. This challenge is particularly significant in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) where risk factors such as poverty, limited treatment options and stigma restrict access to care and exacerbate the burden and magnify the impact of mental disorders. Given these barriers, there is an urgent need for research dedicated to expanding mental healthcare for young people in LMICs.

Because of the global public health challenge characterized by adolescent mental health disorders, there have been increased efforts over the last two decades to expand treatment options for youths in LMICs. These efforts conducted under the umbrella of global mental health research have improved our understanding of the efficacy and acceptability of various kinds of mental health interventions for young people in LMICs. However, there are concerns that these efforts may risk the imposition of Western values and approaches. Researchers from high-income countries (HICs) may bring assumptions about diagnostic classification, aetiology and treatment that may not be appropriate for LMICs.

To address this risk, and enhance cultural validity, some investigators have emphasised the value of collaborating with colleagues from LMICs in designing and implementing interventions for these settings. Without such collaboration with community partners, well-intentioned efforts may risk relying on false assumptions about the generalisability of Western-derived inter- vention development and research methods across diverse populations in LMICs.

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