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Language, culture, and task shifting - an emerging challenge for global mental health

Swartz, Leslie ; Kilian, Sanja ; Twesigye, Justus ; Attah, Dzifa ; Chiliza, Bonginkosi (2014-02)

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.

The original publication is available at

Please cite as follows:

Swartz, L. et al. 2014. Language, culture, and task shifting - an emerging challenge for global mental health. Glob Health Action, 7, doi:10.3402/gha.v7.23433.


Language is at the heart of mental health care. Many high-income countries have sophisticated interpreter services, but in low- and middle-income countries there are not sufficient professional services, let alone interpreter services, and task shifting is used. In this article, we discuss this neglected issue in the context of low- and middle-income countries, where task shifting has been suggested as a solution to the problem of scarce mental health resources. The large diversity of languages in low- and middle-income countries, exacerbated by wide-scale migration, has implications for the scale-up of services. We suggest that it would be useful for those who are working innovatively to develop locally delivered mental health programmes in low- and middle-income countries to explore and report on issues of language and how these have been addressed. We need to know more about local challenges, but also about local solutions which seem to work, and for this we need more information from the field than is currently available

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