Congratulations to Melanie Abas promoted to Professor at King’s College London

30 Jul 2019

We are delighted to announce that Melanie Abas has been promoted to Professor in Global Mental Health at King’s College London.

Professor Melanie Abas has been a leading member of the Centre for Global Mental Health since its inception and has researched, published, taught and mentored widely in the field of depression and other common mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries and in vulnerable migrants in high- and middle-income countries.

Prof Abas began by developing methods to measure depression and anxiety disorders validly in cross-cultural groups. Her research was the first to show a common mechanism for the development of depression cross-culturally through the experience of life events involving humiliation and loss. Her research was used to inform the addition of a new cultural influence on depression diagnosis in DSM V. Kufungisisa (“thinking too much” in Shona) is both an idiom for and a cultural explanation for negative affect among the Shona of Zimbabwe. Her work in Zimbabwe and also in Thailand, Moldova, Sri Lanka and among minority groups in the UK, has been prominent in defining and promoting the emerging field of global mental health.

In the last decade she has focussed on developing and trialling interventions for common mental disorders in primary care in low income countries and in people living with HIV. The interventions she works on are those that can be delivered through task-sharing with non-specialists, for example in the Friendship Bench project. She is now working with partners to learn how to implement the Friendship Bench in rural areas in Zimbabwe and in adolescents . Her work to ‘de-bunk’ the myth that depression does not occur in low-income countries has been covered in depth in the media including the Guardian and CNN.

Prof Abas leads a team with a program of research on depression and HIV in Zimbabwe. She is PI of an R01 clinical trial funded by the US NIMH which aims to demonstrate how to achieve viral suppression through better approaches to adherence counselling, and through improving mental health (TENDAI project). Her vision of task-sharing to grow access to care for depression and anxiety disorders is expanding to creative arts programs and the private sector. Abas’s partners for implementation include ministries of health and international and national NGOs, as well as those coming new to emerging global health opportunities.

Her work has been characterised by research capacity building. She was a co-principal investigator on a Medical Education Partnership Initiative program, a platform which built capacity across a network of 13 African medical schools, funded by PEPFAR and the NIH. She continues to provide formal research mentorship to senior at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences as well as supervising Wellcome Trust fellows and PhD students. Prof Abas is the lead for King's College London of one of the DELTAS (Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science) programs (AMARI) funded by the Wellcome Trust and the African Academy of Sciences to build research capacity in African mental health scientists.

We congratulate Prof Abas on her well-deserved promotion and look forward to seeing all of the incredible research to come.