Investigating global mental health: Contributions from political science

Amy S. Patterson, Nana Yaa Boadu, Mary Clark, Craig Janes, Nicole Monteiro, Jan Hatcher Roberts, Jeremy Shiffman, Dyonah Thomas, Heather Wipfli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article outlines an agenda for political science engagement with global mental health. Other social sciences have tackled the topic, investigating such questions as the link between poverty and mental health disorders. Political science is noticeably absent from these explorations. This is striking because mental health disorders affect one billion people globally, governments spend only about 2% of their health budgets on these disorders, and most people lack access to treatment. With its focus on power, political science could deepen knowledge on vulnerabilities to mental illness and explain weak policy responses. By illustrating how various forms of power pertaining to governance, knowledge, and moral authority work through the concepts of issue framing, collective action, and institutions, the article shows that political science can deepen knowledge on this global health issue. Political science can analyse how incomplete knowledge leads to contentious framing, thus hobbling advocacy. It can explain why states shirk their obligations in mental health, and it can question how incentives drive mental health mobilisation. The discipline can uncover how power undergirds institutional responses to global mental health at the international, national, and community levels. Political science should collaborate with other social sciences in research networks to improve policy outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)805-817
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal public health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2 2020


  • Global mental health
  • collective action
  • framing
  • institutions
  • power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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