Conference in October celebrated 10 years of the Centre for Global Mental Health

27 Nov 2019

The Road to Global Mental Health Conference took place on 29th October 2019, in the Great Hall, King’s College London, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Centre for Global Mental Health.

The day started with a fireside chat by the founding directors of the CGMH, Prof Vikram Patel and Prof Martin Prince, facilitated by the Conference’s chair and current co-Director, Prof Ricardo Araya. Martin and Vikram reflected on the challenges they encountered those first years to establish the CGMH, with few resources and poor wider understanding of the field of global mental health. They recognised the outstanding effort and hard work of many others who helped foster the vast and expanding network that exists today, particularly across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Prof Ricardo Araya launched the Report: Celebrating 10 Years, which compiles the CGMH’s contributions in research, policy, education, training and advocacy in global mental health, through partnerships with other institutions and a powerful network reaching across Latin America, Africa and South Asia. The Report highlights 10 of the Centre’s key projects in the last decade to demonstrate the impact of those research initiatives on the global population.

Prof Crick Lund and Dr Charlotte Hanlon shared their expert insight on integrating mental health into primary care in low resource settings. They discussed the successes and ongoing challenges through a rich and engaging presentation, based on several groundbreaking research projects and treatment services being implemented across sub-Saharan African countries, such as South Africa and Ethiopia, followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

Prof Sir Graham Thornicroft gave a compelling presentation about evidence on reducing stigma and discrimination in LMICs. With a wealth of data from cross-sectional surveys, systematic reviews, trials and pilot studies, Graham illustrated the progress, lessons learned so far and opportunities to fight stigma in mental illness globally.

Guest speaker Prof Andrea Danese, from the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, gave an excellent presentation on the importance of understanding and addressing common, modifiable risk factors, such as childhood trauma, to reduce the burden of psychopathology in adulthood – based on evidence that most psychiatric disorders have their onset in the childhood and adolescent years. The talk discussed opportunities and challenges for research in these areas, followed by Q&A.

After lunch, Prof Sarah Byford, Head of Post-Graduate Research at the IoPPN, facilitated a most anticipated session of Lightning Talks by 9 early-career researchers and academics selected by a panel via a public abstract call prior to the Conference. The speakers included PhD student Caroline Smartt (USA), Dr Elaine Flores (Peru), Dr Georgia Lockwood Estrin (UK),  PhD student Nicole Votruba (Germany), Matthew Aldridge (UK), One Selohilwe (South Africa), Dr Roxanne Keynejad (UK), PhD student Wubalem Fekadu (Ethiopia) and Prakash BK (Nepal). The topics of their presentations ranged from homelessness in Ethiopia, effects of El Niño on residents in Peru, the Potential of Buddhist Āyurvedic Counselling, intimate partner violence in LMICs and adolescents with depression in rural Nepal.

The Conference promoted a Poster Exhibition by early-career researchers and more senior academics including; Dr Karen Wen, Dr Shalini Ahuja, Sonia Vallentin, Temitope Ademosu, Nasri Omar, Dr Grace Ryan, Sindujaa Selliah, Dr Roya Soltanian, Dr Deborah Allen and Dr Zuzanna Zajkowska.

Prof Melanie Abas’s brilliant lecture Mental Health and the Global Goal to End AIDS by 2030, focused on the evidence-based impact that common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety have on adherence to HIV control treatment drugs, and the need to overcome the challenges to hit the target to end the epidemic of AIDS in the next 11 years.

Prof Craig Morgan shared expertise on the epidemiology of psychosis from a global perspective, showcasing data from several evidence-based studies and presenting the INTernational REsearch Programme on Psychoses In Diverse Settings (INTREPID) based in Nigeria, India and Trinidad and Tobago, which aims to establish foundations for a programme to investigate incidence, onset, and outcome of psychosis in diverse settings. He raised the issue of the relative neglect of psychoses in the global mental health agenda.

Dr Matthew Prina’s talk, Ageing and mental health: an epidemiological insight into older populations, discussed the global importance of dementia, tapping on data from prevalence studies and the risk prediction in LMICs. The presentation also highlighted strong recommentations for healthy ageing, (defined by the World Healthy Organisation as the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age), how ageing trajectories differ across countries/cohorts, and pending issues related to ageing.

Dr Mary de Silva moderated a final roundtable discussion with young global mental health researchers and activists Norha Vera, Dr Tessa Roberts, Victor Ugo and Urvita Bhatia, followed by reflection of senior leaders of the Centre for Global Mental Health, Dr Julian Eaton, Prof Martin Prince and Prof Vikram Patel. This panel commented on the direction for future work of the CGMH and ongoing challenges.

The topics discussed included challenges for the new generation, capacity building to tackle these challenges, widening access to opportunity to actors from the global South, and developing South-South collaborations. Some key themes brought up in the panel were broadening the agenda of the CGMH to encompass action on the broader social challenges that influence the population’s mental health. There was a general critique of the treatment gap being the central mission of the CGMH and rebalancing power from the global North to the global South.

The day was brought to a conclusion by Prof Richard Horton, Head of Global Health at The Lancet, who provided some thought-provoking challenges for us to consider as the Centre for Global Mental Health develops. He also wrote a piece on the Conference, which was published at the Lancet on 9 November, attached below.