How are mental health and economic wealth related to each other? This panel invites papers questioning wealth/health relations. We are particularly interested in how the methods used by anthropologists can, or cannot, provide a critical vantage point onto global mental health.
How are mental health and economic wealth related to each other? Economic distress, income disparities, and rapid economic change have been suspected to cause a range of illnesses. But this relationship in cases of mental illness remains paradoxical and contested. Efforts to relate economic wealth to mental health have a long history, but sustained discussions for a social "enlightenment" campaign came in the 1990s with the introduction of 'DALY' calculations, marking a shift towards measuring the burden of disability caused by mental illnesses. New DALY-based statistics pushed mental health higher up global health agendas and a "global mental health movement" emerged to lobby for a drastic "scaling up" of mental health services in low and middle-income countries. Core parts of the "evidence base" are calculations of investment in mental health, and how much growth could be generated with increased spending on drugs and therapies. The causal links between economic wealth and mental health remain unclear, however. Initial World Health Organization conceptualizations of global mental health highlighted the dangers of capitalist growth — a classic tale of "disembedding" was applied to mental health. This critical view was abandoned in favour of a pro-growth vision: poverty meant poor mental health, and economic growth meant improved mental health. But the paradoxes refuse to be resolved easily. This panel invites papers questioning wealth/health relations from the point of view of social anthropology. We are particularly interested in how the methods used by anthropologists can, or cannot, provide a critical vantage point onto global mental health.