Global Mental Health and How to be Part of It

Updated on September 2, 2019

What is Global Mental Health? 

If you’re looking to make a difference in improving how we as a society handle mental health issues, you have a plethora of areas where more talents and innovations are needed. There’s research, pharmaceuticals, social engagement (to help them adjust to normal life in the wider society), counseling, etc. 

Mental health awareness has been growing across the globe, but the awareness is skewed towards the more developed nations who can afford research and investment in this field. 75% of those who suffer from mental or neurological disorders come from low-income countries where they have less access to treatment and care. 

There is a wealth of knowledge around prevention and treatment that could be shared globally that could help reduce the rates of substance abuse, suicide, and other hazardous outcomes to citizen health. Despite the importance of the global mental health, only 1% of the global health workforce is dedicated to mental health issues. According to WHO, nearly half of the GMH workforce are nurses. 

When you look at psychiatrist and nurses working in the field, Australia is leading the pack with 90.6 mental health professionals per 100K population. The US is much lower in ranking, with 4.3 professionals per 100K. 

Most countries have their own policies and laws that are not well-considered with the involvement of actual patients and family members affected by these disorders. They are not in line with the human rights guidelines/covenants. 

The gap in knowledge is clear, with heavier consequences seen in poorer countries. In order to tackle the imbalance and provide treatment to those in most need, the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) brings passionate mental health experts from all over the world to scale the treatment and resources across member nations. 

How do I get into this space? 

Mental health is a huge space with so many career paths that could each have a tremendous impact on the community. 

First, you must have the proper accreditations and real-life experience in order to enter the field. Second, start volunteering for WHO or Movement for Global Mental Health to do research and understand challenges outside your geographical regions. Get training and obtain mental health certification in other countries with exemplary mental health programs such as Australia to expand your horizons. 

These resources will help you tap into the right network that could send you to areas in desperate need of mental health programs and make a real difference. 

What does the career path look like in GMH? 

The things is, GMH is such a broad space that there is no standard career paths defined. Given the level of global collaboration in place, however, it’ll be an opportunity for anyone brave enough to build an incredible path for themselves. You will be able to advise governments on best practices and social impact that investment in preventive mental health solutions could lead to, you can travel around to train mental health care professionals, etc. 

Currently, many with GMH aspirations are concentrated at schools or academic institutions, which needs to change. More action-oriented professionals must join GMH and the wider global efforts to bring about actual progress. So the career paths of future GMH professionals are likely going to be very different and even more diverse.

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