Transforming Mental Health Implementation Research

SHP's Sara Singer, a member of the Lancet Psychiatry Commission, calls for closing the knowledge gap in mental health research.
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The Lancet Psychiatry Commission has released a report that examines the effective approaches to prevent and treat mental illness, particularly in parts of the world where marginalized communities could most benefit from evidence-based interventions.

“Too often, research produces interventions and implementation strategies that are difficult to scale owing to misalignment with the political, cultural, policy, system, community, provider, and individual realities of real-world settings,” reads the executive summary of the commission report. “Most mental health implementation research has been done in high-income countries, but the Commission’s recommendations incorporate research from low-income and middle-income countries and call for strategies to expand mental health implementation research globally.”

More than 970 million worldwide live with a mental illness worldwide—almost one in eight people—and nearly 18% of the overall global burden of disease is attributable to mental health conditions. Yet mental health has historically been set apart from the public health and health care sectors and many interventions are not fully tested in the real world.

“So much of what we know works doesn’t work in practice because it’s not implemented or scaled well,” said Sara Singer, PhD, a professor of health policy at Stanford Health Policy and a member of the Lancet commission. “To do better, we need research that informs how to close these knowing-doing gaps. I’m excited about this Lancet Psychiatry Commission report because it provides a clear path for doing better on mental health, an area of critical need in the US and globally.”

The commission members call for the following strategies: 

  • Replace the research-to-implementation pathway with an integrated approach.
  • Embed equity in mental health intervention and implementation research.
  • Approach the implementation gap with a complexity science lens.
  • Expand the use of non-experimental approaches to establish causality.
  • Use a transdisciplinary approach to generate actionable knowledge to close the mental health implementation gap.




See the Full Report & Recommendations