COVID-19 Show message

Skip to content

2018 Global Mental Health Workshop: “Diversity: A Tool for Solving Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health”


Location: Bethesda Marriott, Bethesda, MD

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health (ORDGMH) and Grand Challenges Canada co-convened the annual Global Mental Health Workshop on May 1-2, 2018 to bring together global mental health researchers, innovators, and other stakeholders on the theme of “Diversity: A Tool for Solving Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health.”

The workshop achieved its goal of highlighting the importance of diversity in science

  1. along the research pipeline;
  2. in the global mental health research workforce;
  3. among the individuals who participate in mental health research (including youth, racial/ethnic minorities, women, sexual and gender minorities, and individuals with disabilities); and
  4. in the short, medium, and long-term timeframes required for various research endeavors to improve clinical care.

The opening keynote address by Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization, highlighted the importance of diversity and equity in global mental health research and services. He emphasized the need to use the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to broaden the scope of diversity and equity on a global scale. Given his impact in the field of global mental health and upcoming retirement, ORDGMH recognized Dr. Saxena for his commitment to global mental health and research partnership with NIMH. At the end of the first day, Dr. Vikram Patel, The Pershing Square Professor of Global Health at Harvard University Medical School, suggested in his keynote address that effective steps to realize the SDG of universal mental health care would occur by synthesizing the knowledge about the delivery of effective interventions in low-resource settings. He inspired participants to visualize “a world where mental health is valued and realized for all.”

The second day of the workshop opened with a keynote address by Dr. Laurence Kirmayer, James McGill Professor and Director, Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry and Department of Psychiatry at McGill University in Canada. He challenged the notion that “one size fits all” when addressing global mental health among Indigenous communities. In emphasizing the importance of resiliency and empowerment, Dr. Kirmayer highlighted the Indigenous Innovation Initiative that empowers and supports Indigenous people to address their own mental health concerns. The workshop closed with keynote presentations by Dr. Margarita Alegria, Chief of the Disparities Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Patricio Marquez, Lead Public Health Specialist of the World Bank. Dr. Alegria discussed the importance of effective collaborations with community-based organizations to define the research questions, co-create or co-adapt treatments, and to work together in interpreting and using research results to improve mental health care. Dr. Marquez spoke about the quest for global mental health parity and the need to reposition mental health as an important element of the global health agenda. He concluded his address by stating that “there is no wealth without mental health,” underscoring that human capital plays a critical role in a country’s wealth.

Workshop participants engaged actively in sessions that included topics such as computational science, measurement challenges, mobile technology, research and policy engagement, implementation science, research capacity building, and opportunities for action across diverse communities. In the emerging issues session, panelists highlighted effective strategies for financing Global Mental Health Care, the importance of cultural neuroscience, steps to making mental health equity a priority, and how best to adapt evidence-based mental health interventions at the community, regional, and country level.  In the measurement session, speakers discussed challenges such as measuring cultural-specific aspects of stigma, the underutilization of mixed methods research, and incorporating the Research Domain Criteria (or RDoC) framework. The mHealth technology session showcased four mHealth research studies on global mental health with the panel speakers posing mHealth challenge questions to the audience for discussion. The NIMH-supported Collaborative Hubs for International Research on Mental Health presented their research findings on the expansion of mental health services through diverse task sharing approaches. The “Intersections for Action across Diverse Communities” session highlighted the role of Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in the global mental health movement and discussed opportunities for strategic collaboration.

Roundtable lunch discussions were held during Day 1 for students and early-stage investigators to meet informally with mid-level and senior investigators, providing a unique opportunity for networking and sharing information on mentorship, career development, interactions with NIMH program staff, and strategies for staying up-to-date on emerging topics in global mental health research.

As a follow-on activity to the annual Global Mental Health Workshop, ORDGMH hosted a grant-writing and peer review workshop on May 3, 2018, for graduate students, trainees, early-career/early-stage investigators, and others with limited experience with the NIH grant application process. This workshop covered topics such as research concept development, grant application preparation and submission, scientific review, clinical research guidelines, and identifying funding opportunities and resources for global mental health research and training. Participants networked with NIMH and other NIH staff, shared their experiences on applying for NIH funding, and discussed possible global mental health research concepts.

Overall, the workshop, roundtable discussions, and grant-writing session highlighted participation from an enthusiastic community of investigators, providers, and funders, increased 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.