There's no question that it is very much the neglected child of the global health scene. In fact, in the US$22-billion-per-year industry of global health programming, there is nary an international initiative aimed at redressing the enormous toll that mental disorders take on the world's population - causing one million suicides each year alone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In a clearly orchestrated campaign, representatives of the mental health community stepped up to the microphones in session after session of the World Health Summit in Berlin, Germany, to basically say "What about mental health?" while pitching for its inclusion on the agenda, particularly in any form of global fund to be created as part of the 2011 Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases that the United Nations has convened.
"There's definitely a grassroots effort and I think reasonably so," says Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the United States National Institute of Mental Health, one of 27 falling under the US National Institutes of Health umbrella. "Many people in this community feel that they are still not at the table in the way that they'd like to be, particularly given the WHO numbers on disability. They keep thinking, 'What are we, chopped liver? Why are we not part of this conversation?'"
And given that so many of the world's young fall victim to mental disorders, they are "the chronic diseases of young people," Insel adds. "So there's every reason for us to be thinking about global burdens, thinking about what needs to be...