Global mental health is the international perspective on various aspects of mental health. It is 'discipline, research and practice that places a priority on improving mental health and achieving equity in mental health for all people worldwide'.
The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience in India listed Global Mental Health as one of their key aims for 2017-2018. The overall aim of the field of global mental health is to strengthen mental health all over the world by providing information about the mental health situation in all countries, and identifying mental health care needs in order to develop cost-effective interventions to meet those specific needs.
Accounting for cultural differences and country-specific disorders, it deals with the epidemiology of psychological conditions in different countries, therapeutic approaches, mental health education, political and financial aspects, the structure of mental health care systems, human resources in mental health, and human rights issues among others.
It is estimated that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Although many effective interventions for the treatment of mental disorders are known, and awareness of the need for treatment of people with mental disorders has risen, the proportion of those who need mental health care but who do not receive it remains very high. This so-called "treatment gap" is estimated to reach between 76–85% for low- and middle-income countries, and 35–50% for high-income countries.
Despite the apparent need, there have not been significant changes in the delivery of mental health care during the past years. This issue can mainly be attributed to public health priorities, lack of a mental health policy and legislation in many countries, a severe lack of resources – both financial and human resources – as well as an inefficient allocation of the few resources that are available.
In 2011, the World Health Organization estimated a shortage of 1.18 million mental health professionals, including 55,000 psychiatrists, 628,000 nurses in mental health settings, and 493,000 psychosocial care providers needed to treat mental disorders in 144 low- and middle-income countries. The annual wage bill to remove this health workforce shortage was estimated at about US$4.4 billion.