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The ethical imperative to scale up health care services for people with severe mental disorders in low and middle income countries
  1. V Patel1,
  2. S Bloch2
  1. 1
    London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK/Sangath, India
  2. 2
    University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor V Patel, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK/Sangath, India; vikram.patel{at}


Most mentally ill people in low and middle income countries, where clinical services are typically scarce and mental health legal provisions often inadequate, do not receive requisite evidence based treatment. The unfortunate consequence is compromised health and well-being and lack of social integration in the community. Recent initiatives, such as the Movement for Global Mental Health, aim to improve the situation and, in so doing, take into account ethical factors that play a role in the face of inadequate care and mental health legislative frameworks. Two composite case vignettes based on the narratives of actual patients living in India are used to show how family carers resort to measures like deception, coercion and physical restraint in order to deal with challenging behaviours stemming from severe and enduring mental disorders. These actions, while violating patients’ fundamental human rights, are also the consequence of the utter frustration and despair experienced by families. Scaling up mental health care based on the principle of cost effectiveness is not only a clinical imperative, but also a pivotal means to ensure that the severely mentally ill are accorded the same universal rights as those enjoyed by others.

  • ethics
  • international health services
  • adult psychiatry

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  • See Editorial, p 507

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed

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