Mental Health Research Funding is Insufficient and Inequitable

Vikram Patel charts the disconnect between the current allocation of mental health research funds and global needs.

Emaline Friedman, PhD
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In a commentary for Lancet Psychiatry, well-known Harvard professor Vikram Patel reviews the global landscape of mental health research funding from 2015 to 2019. He recommends that funding bodies and health researchers soberly assess the existing funding patterns, which prioritize etiological and biological research, and white or European populations, over studies that improve treatments and reach diverse populations.

Critics have previously documented how Western psychiatric and psychological research has neglected the experiences of non-white, non-college-educated, and poor individuals. In addition, most of the research funding goes toward neurological, genetic, and other biological studies that have limited clinical applications.

In his commentary, Patel points out that a relatively small proportion of research funding goes toward mental health, compared to other health research. He also argues that mental health research is inequitably distributed across the globe.

The proportion of global health research dedicated to mental health has not changed much over time, despite the increased attention given to mental health disorders and increasing rates of people seeking mental health treatment. Patel adds that “an annual investment of USD$3·7 billion, about 50 cents per capita of the global population and just 4% of total health research funding, is simply pathetic.”

Patel acknowledges that this figure is only likely to increase if mental health research can achieve the degree of impact witnessed in other branches of medicine on a key metric: reducing suffering due to mental health disorders.

From a global perspective, less than 10% of mental health research funds are spent in countries in Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, which have 90% of the world’s health problems.

“To have invested an overwhelming share of funding to research a fairly homogeneous population with a common ancestry (i.e., white or European) and very similar social and cultural contexts is akin to trying to map a vast and diverse ecosystem by simply focusing our gaze on a thicket of trees,” Patel writes.

Additionally, only a small proportion of the existing funds are allocated to understanding developmental and childhood mental health disorders. This is the case despite scientific consensus that much suffering owing to mental health disorders has its onset in the first two decades of life.

The allocation of research funding diverges sharply from the recommendations of the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health initiative, a report that Patel lauds as a systematic and inclusive effort to identify the research priorities that would most effectively reduce the global burden of mental health issues. The initiative identified implementation science as being of the highest priority globally, which refers to research on how to best utilize existing knowledge. Yet only 7% of mental health research funds are allocated to health services, clinical, and prevention research combined, compared to the more than 50% of funds that go to biological and etiological research.

Patel argues for increased investments in mental health research. However, these funds should be redirected to studies that apply existing knowledge to improve service-users’ lives internationally. The share of research devoted to global contexts should be increased substantially toward the overarching goal of reducing the global burden of mental health disorders.

 

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Patel, V. (2020). Mental health research funding: Too little, too inequitable, too skewed. The Lancet Psychiatry, S2215036620304715. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30471-5

20 COMMENTS

  1. What More Do You Want:-

    “Schizophrenia” (which I don’t believe in) is the Big Psychiatric Diagnosis.

    I was treated in the Famous Maudsley Hospital 1980, Kings College, London and the Ground Breaking Research NUIG (Regional)
    Hospital Ireland 1980/1.

    I recovered as a result of responsibly stopping treatment and straightforward Psychotherapy (and have remained well for the past 36 years).

  2. Straightforward Psychotherapy:-

    Most people can identify with “Emotional Reasoning” or “Catastrophisation” – getting stuck on a problem inside in the head, and not being able to work it out, or to put it down.

    On withdrawal from strong psychiatric drugs “Emotional Reasoning” can take over.

    Straightforward Psychotherapy would be about learning how to put a problem down, until the head levels off, and the problem becomes manageable.

  3. “most of the research funding goes toward neurological, genetic, and other biological studies that have limited clinical applications.” I agree, the DSM disorders have next to nothing to do with “neurological, genetic, and other biological” factors.

    But without tossing out the “invalid” DSM, the “mental health” workers will never reduce their clients’ distress, or as you call it “suffering due to mental health disorders.” Despite the fact your DSM “mental health disorders” are NOT scientifically valid diseases.

    “50% of funds … go to biological and etiological research.” The “mental health” industry doesn’t really need funding for biological or etiological research, since us “evil anti-psychiatry” people have already found the primary etiologies of your two “most serious mental illnesses.” And we’ve given them to you for free, repeatedly. How “evil” can we get?

    Once again, the ADHD drugs and antidepressants can create the “bipolar” symptoms. The antipsychotics / neuroleptics can create the positive symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via anticholinergic toxidrome. And the antipsychotics / neuroleptics can create the negative symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome.

    Rather than calling for more money, and continuing to blindly trust big Pharma funded research. It’d be wiser for the “mental health” workers to learn to listen to their clients and former clients, who actually did honest research.

    • How does the customer today find the roadmap or the bread crumbs to this window if they are beginning to process reality different? Say for example they are at the fork in the road and are being challenging as well as challenged by those around them or in the courts?

  4. OYE!
    “Additionally, only a small proportion of the existing funds are allocated to understanding developmental and childhood mental health disorders. This is the case despite scientific consensus that much suffering owing to mental health disorders has its onset in the first two decades of life.”

    Give em dollars and let em loose. They would like to understand what transpires in the minds of children. How this neuron picks up a message and it develops into this thought. They would like to know the “process” and what to name it and what pills will fix that thought or view.

    How about using research dollars and creating virtual worlds for kids? Stick em with computerized parents and virtual playgrounds, schools, teachers and see what processes take place. I mean it’s all experi-mental, so why not? Sell these programs to parents and school systems. Probably a better option that bringing them to a researcher or shrink which really is the same anyway.

    • Yes, it’s sick that the “mental health” system is in our schools, spewing insanity at parents, in the hopes of neurotoxic poisoning our healthy, well behaved children. Merely because their school districts “aren’t equipped to deal with the smartest children.”

      In other words, the “mental health” system wants to poison the best and brightest American children.

      And this was confirmed as the “mental health” system’s goal, by a subsequent psychologist. Whose only life goal, according to him, was “maintaining the status quo.” Which was to him, “getting all the money into the hands of a small number of globalist banking families.”

      Grown adults, systemically attacking, defaming, and neurotoxic poisoning innocent American children, is disgusting.

      Get the scientifically “invalid” DSM “bible” believing, globalist fraud based banksters’ Ponzi scheme of a monetary system only worshipping, insane – but likely totally ignorant of the big picture – “mental health” workers, out of our schools … and our churches.

  5. If you look at all the people that Genuinely Recover from “terrible Psychiatric Illnesses” on this website – they all
    Recover through abandoning Psychiatry.

    “Schizophrenia”
    Major Tranquillisers are very disabling. How does a person come off them?
    Through very careful drug taper and the application of effective psychological techniques to deal with the High Anxiety the process causes.

    Where can effective anti anxiety techniques be found?
    From Books. From the Internet.
    From Buddhist Temples
    From Personal Stories
    From personal observation.
    From Self Help Groups.
    From Psychologists

    What works for Normal Anxiety – works for Extreme Anxiety.

  6. Who would listen to this call for more money to study behaviours?
    Szasz “Confusing behaviours…. with diseases” https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xpiph6

    “funding to research a fairly homogeneous population with a common ancestry” looking for biological evidence, when we know there is no evidence in the DNA or whatever. The second there is evidence of “mental illness” it is no longer mental illness but physical illness.

    People who are poor have bad nutrition, bad physical effects on their brain, body and soul.

    The guy is talking about poverty not mental illness. Poverty needs to be studied? What BS.

    “argues that mental health research is inequitably distributed across the globe.” You can only look after your own country. People need clean water and food more than mental health services. He is asking for a WHO or NATO and the United Nations mental health police?

    • Yes Mark, Another privileged monkey wondering how he can keep busy. I mean honestly
      do you know the mental work involved in being a researcher? So it’s about crafting language in ways
      that the funders have no clue what is involved but they figure if “mental and WHO” is part of the subject then all is good.

      • My post?
        There you go. The relationship is known, so why do we need funds to “study” poverty?

        “Patel argues for increased investments in mental health research. However, these funds should be redirected to studies that apply existing knowledge to improve service-users’ lives internationally”

        He directly states that this “research” should be directed into the poorer areas of the world. To the children. And that the funds be directed towards “research”.
        And since they’ve done such a successful job in the developed countries and millions of kids are being drugged and that the drugging IS much higher in the poverty group, how then do you think they will manage the “mental health” in poverty stricken underdeveloped countries?

        • Knowing a relationship exists between two variables doesn’t mean the exact nature of all the relationships is known, especially between two large and complex phenomena such as poverty and mental illness.

          I have no sympathy for someone who thinks treatment consists solely in prescribing drugs, especially to children, so I’m with you on that.

          • And if it’s not known, no one should pretend that they know it. And certainly no one should prescribe harmful drugs to that which they know zero about.
            Simply admitting the lies, the pretense is sorely needed to actually make headway into the vastness of experiences.

          • truth793 wrote “I have no sympathy for someone who thinks treatment consists solely in prescribing drugs”

            Without drugs (renamed medicines) you can no longer claim psychiatry is a medicinal treatment , it is a religious/moral treatment if it only uses words/talking/ communication.

            People usually get to chose what religion to follow/worship.

  7. I agree, but psychiatrists and so-called scientists will engage in endless double-talk about things like “clinical efficacy” and “known unknowns” until they are blue in the face.
    To paraphrase Mark Twain, don’t expect someone to admit the truth if their ability to earn a paycheck depends on them denying it.

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