This introductory module describes the current global context of mental health. Beginning with an outline of the current burden of mental disorders, the module sets the stage by describing the historical background to the current situation and summarising recent developments in the understanding, treatment and care of people with mental disorders. An analysis is provided of trends in global health reform and their implications for mental health. To illustrate how these global trends can be addressed by governments, and to introduce the reader to the guidance package, a summary is then provided of the modules in the guidance package. This module will enable readers to gain an understanding of the global context of mental health and to select which modules will be useful to them in their particular situations.