February 13, 2017

Professors Promote Global Mental Health through Multidisciplinary Symposium

Mental health is often neglected in the discussion of global development for low income countries. However, professors Emily Mendenhall and Yulia Chentsova Dutton sought to remedy this issue by organizing in an in-depth, multidisciplinary, and cross-cultural symposium entitled “Global Mental Health: Transdisciplinary Perspectives.”

Dr. Emily Mendenhall, assistant professor of global health for the Science, Technology, and International Affairs program in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, is a medical anthropologist and studies how social trauma, poverty, and social exclusion become embodied in chronic mental and physical illness.

Dr. Yulia Chentsova Dutton, associate professor for the Department of Psychology, is a cultural psychologist and focuses on how culture impacts social support and emotions. She conducts research in East Asian, Russian, and West African cultural contexts.

Fostering In-Depth Discussion to Aid Policymakers

The symposium came at the closure of four-day intensive meeting called “Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority,” which involved more than 200 global mental health leaders and sought to extend the conversation by engaging academia in the discussion.

The symposium brought together anthropologists, cultural psychologists, and transcultural psychiatrists to address four key areas of global mental health: 1) how social, cultural, and political factors affect mental illness across contexts; 2) how we have come to understand mental health and mental illness within and between scholarly disciplines; 3) what are the most effective ways to develop, share, and deliver mental healthcare to vulnerable populations; and 4) what the future of mental health in public health and development is.

Tackling Key Issues in the Effort to Provide Mental Health Services Around the World

These main themes were addressed throughout the day-long event by four panels as well as opening and closing keynote speakers. Discussion throughout the day brought forward imperative issues such as making global mental health a public good and understanding universal, as well as local, cultural characteristics to address mental illness around the world. The symposium also confronted the importance of gearing mental health services towards children and adolescents, as well as indigenous populations. These conversations highlighted the need to address mental health through bottom-up processes by engaging both local and global stakeholders in the effort to improve mental health around the world. The closing keynote emphasized the significant role of political, social, and historical considerations in crafting a truly practical and effective global mental health strategy.

A Global Engagement Faculty Grant allowed Chentsova Dutton and Mendenhall to host the symposium at Georgetown University.