NEWS: Researching Mental Health in Developing Countries

Posted on 15 October 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Announcements, News, Psychiatric Disabilities, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This press release is taken from the Global Forum for Health Research web site.

PRESS RELEASE Geneva, 10 October 2007– Mental and neurological disorders are responsible for 13% of the global burden of disease. In addition, more than half of the 10 leading risk factors that cause one third of premature deaths worldwide have behavioural determinants, such as unsafe sex, tobacco or alcohol consumption, etc. Despite this evidence, mental health is a neglected and an under researched area of public health, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, the Global Forum for Health Research is pleased to launch the following electronic publication:

Research capacity for mental health in low- and middle-income countries: Results of a mapping project

Pratap Sharan, Itzhak Levav, Sylvie Olifson, Andrés de Francisco and Shekhar Saxena (eds.) Geneva, World Health Organization and Global Forum for Health Research, 2007 (

Download full-text PDF (146 p.): or see

The printed publication will be launched at Forum 11, Beijing, People’s Republic of China, 29 October to 2 November 2007 (

This report provides an account of the current status of mental health research in 114 LMICs of Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The scale of the study makes it the first systematic attempt to confirm the pressing needs of improving research capacity in mental health. Thus, the report enables evidence-based decision-making in funding and priority setting in the area of mental health research in LMICs. It strongly requests all policy-makers, programme managers, and funders of research for health, at national and global levels, to place mental health high on their agendas.

A total of 4633 mental health researchers and 3829 decision-makers, university administrators and association workers working in the field of mental health were identified:
• Half of the countries mapped had only five or fewer mental health researchers.
• Fifty-seven per cent of the 114 LMICs were found to contribute fewer than five articles to the international mental health indexed literature for a 10-year period (1993–2003), while very few articles could be identified from non-indexed sources in almost 70% of the countries, suggesting a paucity of researchers and mental health research in many LMICs.
• Some countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, the Republic of Korea and South Africa contributed significantly to international mental health publications – a finding that attests to notable variations in mental health research production within as well as across regions.

The main reasons for this paucity of mental health research identified in the study are the many demands faced by clinicians and academics in a context characterized by poor funding, a lack of trained personnel, little infrastructural support, and a paucity of research networks, in institutions which mostly lacked a research culture.

The survey results showed broad agreement among researchers and other mental health related stakeholders, and across regions, regarding priorities for mental health research in LMICs. Epidemiological studies of burden and risk factors, health system research, and social science research were the highest ranked types of needed research. Depression/anxiety, substance use disorders, and psychoses were identified as the top three priority disorders, while prioritized population groups were children and adolescents, women, and persons exposed to violence/trauma. The most important criteria for prioritizing research were burden of disease, social justice, and availability of funds, although researchers and other stakeholders differed markedly regarding the importance of personal interest of researchers as a criterion for prioritizing research.

These findings highlight the need to review and strengthen the management of mental health research so that it meets the national needs of LMICs as well as contributes to the global fund of knowledge. Governments and other institutions in LMICs should devise mechanisms to allocate greater funds to research, capacity and infrastructure strengthening. Although some examples of research impacting policy and practice are available, in general there is little interface between research and policy. There is a need for organizations to bridge the gap between policy and research by sensitizing researchers about the usefulness of involving other stakeholders in their research and sensitizing stakeholders about the importance of good mental health research.

“This report highlights the weak research structures and the lack of connection between mental health decision-makers and researchers in LMICs. It gives nine key recommendations for the development of research for action.”
Professor Lars Jacobsson, Department of Clinical Sciences, Division of Psychiatry, Umea University, Sweden

Principal Investigators: Carla Gallo, Oye Gureje, Exaltacion E Lamberte, Jair de Jesus Mari, Guido Mazzotti (deceased), Vikram Patel, Leslie Swartz–ENDS


For additional information or interviews, contact Sylvie Olifson T +41 22 791 1667 or Shekhar Saxena T +41 22 791 3625

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