Service user involvement in global mental health: what have we learned from recent research in low and middle-income countries?

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Purpose of reviewThe Lancet Commission on global mental health and sustainable development claims the field of global mental health is undergoing a ‘transformational shift’ toward an ethic of ‘nothing about us without us’. Yet a systematic review published in 2016 identified few examples of meaningful participation by service users in mental health systems strengthening in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). To investigate whether this is still the case, we conducted a rapid review of primary research published between June 2017 and December 2018.Recent findingsWe identified 10 studies reporting on user involvement in LMICs, including three in mental health policy and planning, three in mental health services or capacity-building and three in treatment decision-making. An additional study was identified as having involved users in data collection, although this was unclear from the original text. Included studies were mostly qualitative and conducted as part of a situation analysis, pilot study, or other formative research. Few reported the results of efforts to improve involvement, suggesting this shift remains at an early stage.SummaryAlthough the number of studies published on user involvement is rapidly increasing, the potentially ‘transformational’ effects of this shift in global mental health are not yet being felt by most users in LMICs.

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