Mental Health

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Mental Health and Illness: At home and abroad

Nick Kristof really hit the nail on the head in his Sunday column in the New York Times “First Up, Mental Illness. Next Topic Is Up to You,” where he called out mental illness as one of the major issues systematically neglected to be given the seriousness and attention it deserves.

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Industry ties to medical expert panels

Controversy has surrounded the latest publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of mental health disorders, in part because of concerns that the guideline pathologizes many behaviors that some people might consider normal, theoretically increasing the opportunity to prescribe pharmaceuticals for non-pathological behavior. But beyond the field of psychiatry, there are increasing concerns that “medicalization” may be doing more harm than good for patients (especially where tests and therapies have marginal benefit but potentially great risks), and may be influenced by profit motives and desires to define disease so expansively as to intrude on normal living to a stifling degree. A recent comprehensive study of medical panels’ decisions about expanding disease definitions shed some light on this debate, and revealed some concerning findings… In 2009,  the Institute of Medicine published a landmark report entitled “Conflict of interest in medical research, education, and practice”. In the report, the IOM found  “widespread relationships with industry have created significant risks that individual and institutional financial interests may unduly influence professionals’ judgments” in medicine. Subsequent recommendations from the IOM revealed that a major area of concern was the writing of medical guidelines that physicians around the country (and, indeed, around the world) typically use to decide when to screen patients for diseases, how to define a disease, and when and how to treat such diseases.

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New Nigerian Case Study in PLOS Medicine’s Series on Global Mental Health Practice

Image Credit: Marcie Casas, Flickr At the launch of the Turning the World Upside Down website earlier this year Paul Farmer, from Harvard University, spoke of the ‘fetishisation of the quantifiable’ in global health. That is not to say the quantifiable outcomes are not important, but instead to highlight that there is a lot to learn from the experience of researchers, clinicians and policy makers beyond the measurable. This is a key motivation of PLOS Medicine’s Global Mental Health Practice series, which aims to emphasize the importance of “practice-based evidence,” by placing value on the experiences and impact of interventions in real-world settings as evidence for implementation. In this week’s PLOS Medicine we publish a new case study, as part of the series, by Oye Gureje from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and colleagues who describe their experience of contextualizing and adapting the World Health Organization’s Mental Health Gap Action Programme Intervention Guide (mhGAP-IG) for Nigeria. The guide is designed to help scale up the coverage of mental health services in low resource settings by providing guidance for non-specialists to provide mental health services.

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Data Point To Association Between Child Malnutrition, Parental Mental Health

VOA News: Study in CAR Links Mental Health and Malnutrition “Data collected at a hospital in the Central African Republic suggest that many parents of malnourished children have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the international aid group Action Against Hunger…” (Long, 4/22).


Acid violence – a most horrific form of denigration of women

Jocalyn Clark urges the global health community to press for high level change in legislation regarding acid violence. At a recent social function benefiting the Acid Survivors Foundation, I learned about an insidious worldwide problem that barely figures on the global health radar, but should. Acid violence, sometimes called acid throwing or an acid attack, involves throwing or pouring acid onto a person with the intent of killing or maiming them. The effects are heinous: the corrosive acid, usually sulfuric or nitric acid but sometimes bleach or petrol, melts skin, the eyes, ears, and bone, disfiguring the victim and often destroying their ability to speak, eat, see, and hear. The mental health consequences are as bad as the physical, it is reported, especially if the perpetrator is someone known to the victim, like a boyfriend, husband, or father.


Global Community Must Address Mental Health, Epilepsy

Huffington Post: The True Price of Mental Health and the Low-Cost Solution Olivia Davies, development officer at BasicNeeds “[There is] a distinct lack of funding or recognition for the vast problem of mental illness and epilepsy in low- and middle-income countries. This is a travesty, really, considering that of the 450 million people suffering from…More


IHP news 267: Happy Easter!

Dear Colleagues, It’s Friday, so my coffee consumption is going through the roof. The Christians among you probably have other things to do this weekend, so we’ll keep this intro short. The atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and new agers among you will surely not mind. As for the “Socialist” who has his very own religion, global health, maybe this weekend is a good time to chant his planetary manifesto together with his beloved ones.   In this week’s guest editorial, Agnes Nanyonjo ( from the Malaria Consortium Uganda, and also an EV 2012) provides some of her impressions of the 2014 Geneva Health Forum, focusing mostly on day 1 of the three-day conference


Mental Health Issues Result From Liberia’s 14-Year Civil War

GlobalPost: The lingering wounds of Liberia’s 14-year civil war “In Nimba County, northeastern Liberia, the most visible signs of the country’s 14-year civil war are finally fading. … But the deepest wounds of the conflict are difficult to see and slower to heal. They are the psychological scars of war, and even after a decade…More


Visualizing the disproportionate global burden of mental illness in women

Flickr, porschelinn Mental health problems have a profound impact on men and women worldwide, but the toll of these diseases weighs most heavily on women. Worldwide, depression is responsible for more healthy years lost than HIV/AIDS or malaria in women of all ages. Globally, depression (also known as major depressive disorder, or MDD) was the … Continue reading →


Syrian Refugee Women Need More Reproductive, Mental Health Services, Study Says

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The Guardian: Female refugees from Syria ‘blighted by gynecological illness and stress’ “Syrian women who have fled to Lebanon are suffering severe stress and health problems including a high rate of preterm births and complications among those who are pregnant, according to a study. … Some of their health problems are linked to conflict-related stress,…More


IHP news 257: Towards a world without female genital mutilation & homophobia

Dear Colleagues, The world (or was it part of the Western world and media only?) was concerned / enraged about a number of issues, countries and institutions this week. The rise of cancer worldwide, Female Genital Mutilation, the Vatican, anti-gay laws in Russia  and elsewhere, corruption in the EU, corruption in Russia,  global trade agreements, the mess in South-Sudan and the Central-African Republic,  Egypt, the horror in Syria, yet another awful law in Afghanistan,  … and we obviously forget many sorry hotspots and causes. All of these causes are extremely important ones, and in many cases a matter of life or death for hundreds of thousands of people. But how do we, human beings, manage to focus? How do we avoid that people read something and say – yes, it’s true and it’s a shame – and then move on to the next horror item online or in their newspaper


How evidence-based workforce planning in Australia is informing policy development in the…

Background: Australia’s health workforce is facing significant challenges now and into the future. Health Workforce Australia (HWA) was established by the Council of Australian Governments as the national agency to progress health workforce reform to address the challenges of providing a skilled, innovative and flexible health workforce in Australia. HWA developed Australia’s first major, long-term national workforce projections for doctors, nurses and midwives over a planning horizon to 2025 (called Health Workforce 2025; HW 2025), which provided a national platform for developing policies to help ensure Australia’s health workforce meets the community’s needs. Methods: A review of existing workforce planning methodologies, in concert with the project brief and an examination of data availability, identified that the best fit-for-purpose workforce planning methodology was the stock and flow model for estimating workforce supply and the utilisation method for estimating workforce demand. Scenario modelling was conducted to explore the implications of possible alternative futures, and to demonstrate the sensitivity of the model to various input parameters.


IHP news 256: global health in the year of the horse

Dear Colleagues, This week we focus on WHO’s Executive Board Meeting, Davos (both events were already covered to some extent last week), the PMAC 2014 conference in Bangkok, Obama’s State of the Union, but the newsletter also contains the usual headlines and journal articles.  In this week’s (rather provocative) guest editorial, two Emerging Voices, Alliance Nikuze and Jean-Paul Dossou, discuss the backdrop of homophobic laws in their countries, and whether international actors can play a constructive role through advocacy or not. You might not agree with everything they say, but that’s the whole point of a debate, we reckon. It’s a very tricky issue, for sure, with issues of human rights, sovereignty, donor-recipient relationships, religion, ‘Africa rising’, political motives, … all in the mix.