Contributing to global mental health: Can pediatric psychology extend our reach?

Objective: Global mental health is a burgeoning field of psychology that seeks to create equity in access to services across the globe, regardless of the environment or circumstances. To date, pediatric psychology is rarely included within the scope of health care offered in conflict or postdisaster environments or when addressing health needs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This article identifies previous areas that pediatric psychology and global mental health have intersected and outlines the possibilities for additional contribution to each field, including advocacy, capacity building, consultancy and research. Method: A literature search was conducted regarding the areas of global mental health and pediatric psychology to form the basis for this opinion piece. Results: Pediatric psychology is ideally placed to advocate for the needs of children with medical conditions in LMICs, not only within areas where a pediatric psychology presence is already established, such as HIV, tuberculosis, and noncommunicative disease. For example, within epidemics, pediatric psychologists can advocate for the needs of patients and process adjustment during recovery, and postconflict pediatric psychologists can play a role in the ongoing treatment needs of children suffering war injuries, malnutrition, and/or disease. Last, pediatric psychologists will be able to utilize skills in teaching and training of medical staff and lay counselors in LMIC communities to build capacity for managing mental health in the context of physical health conditions, including within primary health care networks and humanitarian aid efforts. Conclusions: Despite adolescent health being one of the Key Development Goals for the World Health Organization, the mental health care of children and adolescents appears to be largely neglected in LMICs outside of the trauma context. Pediatric psychology has unique expertise in mental health care in the context of medical problems, thus being ideally placed to work alongside humanitarian medical teams, within primary health care networks, and with local ministries of health to promote the holistic support of children with health needs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)