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Commentary 2: Global Mental Health and Social Justice1 

Commentary 2: Global Mental Health and Social Justice1
Commentary 2: Global Mental Health and Social Justice1

Ezra Susser

and Michaeline Bresnahan

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date: 17 September 2021

In their commentary, Ezra Susser and Michaeline Bresnahan observe the history of public health and its connections to social justice, as illustrated through its outstanding practitioners. Thus Philippe Pinel and colleagues proposed that people with mental illnesses should be treated with respect and dignity, William Farr reported appalling mortality rates in English asylums; Edward Jarvis exposed misleading US Census statistics about freed black people’s rates of mental illness; Joseph Goldberger discovered the nutritional origins of pellagra through working in asylums; Edgar Sydenstricker envisioned public health as social justice. Recently, reducing cigarette smoking was a capstone achievement, but the link with mental health (through addictive behaviour, and common mental disorders) has been almost completely missed. The low priority given to mental health by public health, tobacco companies’ denials, and public mental health leaders not realizing their central role, have all contributed. Though non-communicable diseases have the largest global mortality, the authors emphasize that, as longevity increases, life quality as well as duration increasingly matters. Mental disorders are leading causes of disability and their neglect constrains the advance of health (including mortality) and wealth globally. The public health community needs to stop neglecting mental health and make it central to its agenda.

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