The 'global mental health' (GMH) agenda aims to improve access to mental health services in the 'global south'. Critics question the cross-cultural validity of the GMH 'evidence' base and the agenda's top-down nature. This panel considers the emergence of 'local mental health' alternatives to 'GMH'.
The 'global mental health' (GMH) agenda has emerged as the major driver of north-south knowledge transfer in mental health. GMH aims to improve access to mental health services in the 'global south' and reduce inequalities in care. Two tenets underlie GMH: generation of scientific evidence and human rights discourse. Policy influence derives from assembling 'evidence' for mental health interventions and situating GMH within global health and development priorities. Medical anthropologists and cultural psychiatrists have questioned the cross-cultural applicability of the GMH 'evidence' base and the GMH agenda's top-down nature. They argue such interventions promote medicalization of distress and edit local voices, particularities and healing practices.
Medical anthropologists and culturally sensitive clinicians have argued for a bottom-up, radical approach: 'local mental health' (LMH). LMH studies of distress and well-being, mental health and healing practices, and flows of technologies and expertise challenge the basis of global interventions. This approach is thus well placed to critically consider relationships between locally rooted alternatives and GMH. This panel focusses on the emergence of conceptual, policy and programmatic 'local mental health' alternatives to 'global mental health'. The panel will address questions such as: What alternatives to GMH have been effectively applied? How are LMH ideas appropriated and re-shaped by GMH practice & reverse? How might local conceptions of distress, well-being and healing be incorporated into mental health policy and practice? How are psychiatric nosologies constructed, appropriated, translated and resisted? How could voices and concerns of socially excluded groups shape mental health policy and practice?