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Solving the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health

Partnerships for Research and Practice

Date/Time:

Location: Rockville, MD

Sponsored by:
Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health (ORDGMH)

In June 2014, the Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health (ORDGMH), of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and Grand Challenges Canada co-convened a workshop entitled, Solving the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health: Partnerships for Research and Practice. With more than 200 attendees, participation in the annual meeting marked an historic high. Researchers, funders, and advocates representing 31 low-, middle-, and high-income countries spent two days engaged in exciting dialogue about mental health treatment, current research activities, emerging findings, and funding opportunities to address the six priority areas identified in the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health initiative. Participants represented funders, mental health advocacy and other non-governmental organizations, the World Health Organization, universities, and others.

The meeting occurred at a pivotal moment in the field of global mental health, marked by a growing community of investigators and funders, increasing recognition of the mounting evidence base on effective mental health interventions developed and deployed worldwide, and the emergence of exciting new opportunities for scaling up the delivery of mental health care. The objectives of the meeting were to provide opportunities for 1) disseminating current research findings and identifying knowledge gaps in global mental health; 2) training early career investigators; 3) discussing funding priorities with global mental health funders; and 4) forming new research collaborations.

NIMH Director Thomas Insel, M.D., ORDGMH Director Pamela Collins, M.D., M.P.H., and Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada Peter A. Singer O.C., M.D., M.P.H., F.R.S.C. opened the meeting by discussing the importance of engaging the global scientific community and other stakeholders, anticipating and responding to global public health trends, and focusing on equity in the delivery of evidence-based mental health care worldwide. In his plenary presentation, Shekhar Saxena, M.D., highlighted progress being made globally, showcasing countries that are expanding access to effective mental health treatments, civil society initiatives, and the World Health Organization’s comprehensive mental health action plan for 2013-2020, which was adopted by the World Health General Assembly in 2013.

The plenary was followed by panels on risk and protective factors for mental illness and implementation of preventive and early interventions. These panelists discussed the intervention needs of war-affected youth in Sierra Leone and displaced women living in Colombia, strategies for diagnosing neurodevelopmental disorders among toddlers in Nigeria and psychosis among individuals living in rural Peru; and research-based policies to expand early intervention for psychosis in the United States. The afternoon sessions included presentations by four innovators currently funded by Grand Challenges and a lively introduction to the Mental Health Innovation Network, a publically accessible online repository of innovations in global mental health.

The second day of the meeting opened with a session on measurement and analysis, with presentations focusing on assessing maternal depression in South Africa, using Theory of Change to monitor the progress of a community of investigators toward achieving the grand challenge of increasing access to care; the practical realities of using big data to answer pressing public health questions; and, the NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative. A trio of panels then turned to innovative approaches for building human resources to deliver mental health care in resource-poor settings and for transforming healthcare systems with qualified, non-professional providers trained to deliver evidence-based treatment packages. Ricardo Araya, Ph.D., delivered a lunch presentation on building capacity to conduct mental health research, exhorting universities and other training organizations to seek all possible avenues for engaging young students from LMICs in research and other learning opportunities in order to help close the mental health research gap, which mirrors the mental health treatment gap worldwide. The final panel of presenters explored opportunities for their respective non-governmental organizations to partner with researchers and other interested stakeholders in building mental health treatment and research capacity within low-resource settings around the globe.

For more information, please contact Beverly Pringle at bpringle@mail.nih.gov or 301.443.3725