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Inverting the deficit model in global mental health: An examination of strengths and assets of community mental health care in Ghana, India, Occupied Palestinian territories,and South Africa

posted on 2024-04-17, 10:12 authored by Kaaren Mathias, Noah Bunkley, Pooja Pillai, Kenneth A. Ae-Ngibise, Lily Kpobi, Dan Taylor, Kaustubh Joag, Meenal Rawat, Weeam Hammoudeh, Suzan Mitwalli, Ashraf Kagee, Andre van Rensburg, Dorte Bemme, Rochelle A. Burgess, Sumeet Jain, Hanna Kienzler, Ursula M Read

Global mental health [GMH] scholarship and practice has typically focused on the unmet needs and barriers to mental health in communities, developing biomedical and psychosocial interventions for integration into formal health care platforms in response. In this article, we analyse four diverse settings to disrupt the emphasises on health system weaknesses, treatment gaps and barriers which can perpetuate harmful hierarchies and colonial and medical assumptions, or a ‘deficit model’. We draw on the experiential knowledge of community mental health practitioners and researchers working in Ghana, India, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and South Africa to describe key assets existing in ‘informal’ community mental health care systems and how these are shaped by socio-political contexts. These qualitative case studies emerged from an online mutual learning process convened between 39 academic and community-based collaborators working in 24 countries who interrogated key tenets to inform a social paradigm for global mental health. Bringing together diverse expertise gained from professional practice and research, our sub-group explored the role of Community Mental Health Systems in GMH through comparative country case studies describing the features of community care beyond the health and social care system. We found that the socio-political health determinants of global economic structures in all four countries exert significant influence on local community health systems. We identified that key assets across sites included: family and community care, and support from non-profit organisations and religious and faith-based organisations. Strengthening community assets may promote reciprocal relationships between the formal and informal sectors, providing resources for support and training for communities while communities collaborate in the design and delivery of interventions rooted in localised expertise. This paper highlights the value of informal care, the unique social structures of each local context, and resources within local communities as key existing assets for mental health.


Faculty of Health, University of Canterbury



Stellenbosch University


Mathias,Kaaren; Bunkley,Noah; Pillai,Pooja; Ae-Ngibise,Kenneth A.; Kpobi,Lily; Taylor, Dan; Joag,Kaustubh; Rawat, Meenal; Hammoudeh, Weeam; Mitwalli, Suzan; Kagee, Ashraf; van Rensburg, Andre; Bemme, Dorte; Burgess,Rochelle A.; Jain, Sumeet; Kienzler,Hanna; Read, Ursula M.




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Mathias, K, Bunkley, N, Pillai, P, Ae-Ngibise, KA, Kpobi, L, Taylor, D, Joag, K, Rawat, M, Hammoudeh, W, Mitwalli, S, Kagee, A, van Rensburg, A, Bemme, D, Burgess, RA, Jain, S, Kienzler, H & Read, UM. 2024. Inverting the deficit model in global mental health: An examination of strengths and assets of community mental health care inGhana, India, Occupied Palestinian territories, and South Africa. Stellenbosch University. Dataset. DOI:

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