Table of Contents

Handbook on Gender and Health

Handbook on Gender and Health

International Handbooks on Gender series

Edited by Jasmine Gideon

This Handbook brings together a groundbreaking collection of chapters that uses a gender lens to explore health, healthcare and health policy in both the Global South and North. Empirical evidence is drawn from a variety of different settings and points to the many ways in which the gendered dimensions of health have become reworked across the globe.

Chapter 5: Dangerous discourses? Silencing women within ‘global mental health’ practice

Rochelle Ann Burgess

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, family and gender policy, health policy and economics


The movement for global mental health has signalled women as a group of focus in its efforts since 2007. Despite critique of the potential harm of the global movement more broadly, this has not fed into a discussion of the specific problems that will be faced women in the Global South who are the targets of an expansion of Western psychiatric thought within an era of ‘global mental health’. Does the intersection of global forces and local realities create new opportunities for women to challenge contexts that place their mental health at risk? Or is the expanding hand of psychiatric practice merely repeating mistakes of old: a silencing of women’s voice and power to determine their own well-being? This chapter engages with these concerns, through an exploration that attempts to locate the ‘voice’ of women within current global mental health discourses. Via a content analysis of key articles on women’s mental health since the start of the movement in 2001, it highlights a silencing of women’s voices that occurs through the use of methods of data collection, engagement with women that reduces the complexity of their social realities to biomedical conditions, and the problematic positioning of women as objects of treatment rather than autonomous subjects. It argues that for the movement to maintain its relevance it must create opportunities to include local women within processes of service design, and develop more meaningful opportunities for women to challenge the complex social realities that reside at the heart of their mental distress.

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