[Q&A Blog Series #MentalHealthAwareness Month] Mental Health Leadership in India

This blog series highlights the importance of Leadership Programmes in global mental health in anticipation of the upcoming Leadership Exchange in Stockholm. The International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) are hosting this year’s Leadership Exchange with the theme ‘Building Bridges Beyond Borders’ from May 28th-June 1st in Stockholm. The Leadership Exchange is an international event for mental health leaders that takes place every year with the objective to facilitate bi-directional learning for effective mental health leadership initiatives and build networks that are mutually beneficial for leaders, organizations and countries.

For this series, we asked innovators from three influential Leadership Programmes to share their experiences regarding the type of skills participants enrolled in these modules acquire and the lessons they learned. This Q&A was directed at facilitators of Sangath’s annual Leadership in Mental Health course1 in Goa, India.

1. What were the important key messages regarding mental health leadership from the course for attendees?

Our Leadership in Mental Health course emphasises the twin key messages of quality and collaborations, in achieving the broader goal of increasing access to appropriate mental health care.

Our course equips participants with the mindset and skills to develop and evaluate mental health programs with a focus on quality. This includes a focus on evidence-based approaches, rigorous methodologies for monitoring and evaluation and reliance on contextually relevant innovative practices. We also believe that collaborations are the cornerstone for any efficient mental health system locally, nationally, or globally. Participants are exposed to various models of mental healthcare programs in low-resource settings, and are encouraged to develop and foster networks and partnerships to run real world programs in their own settings. 

2. What have you done to cover the gaps in mental health leadership through your course?

The course focuses on a range of teaching methods to achieve the goals of the course as described above. These methods include didactic teaching, presentation of case studies, group discussions, mental health care program planning workshops, and group-based work. Broadly, the topics covered include:

  • Global Mental Health - Making the case for mental disorders, setting priorities, and bridging the treatment and credibility gaps
  • The Movement for Global Mental Health
  • Developing mental health care programmes for prevention and treatment of mental health problems across the lifespan
  • Scaling-up mental health care programmes through community-based, facility-based, and technology platforms
  • Practical considerations for scaling-up integrated mental health care programmes
  • Disability, human rights and law
  • Evidence-based interventions to reduce stigma associated with mental health problems
  • Developing a mental health care plan - Fundamental principles, monitoring & evaluation

3. How will leaders in their settings who attended the course be able to bridge these gaps in their settings? 

Demonstrated by our alumni, our course equips them with the vision and skills to develop and implement innovative programs to bridge the mental health gap in low-resource settings. Pavel Reppo, one of our success stories who has inspired many, highlights how our Leadership in Mental Health course influenced his own efforts to lead and oversee a program in Uganda:

“Last December, I attended their annual Leadership in Mental Health Course, and it transformed my life. In reference to working to bridge the treatment gap within global mental health, Dr Vikram Patel shared, “We know the why, we know the what. We need more people engaging in the how.” I took this call to arms literally and several weeks back excitedly launched mindfullwe, dedicated to providing people what they need to recover from common mental disorders via a step-by-step approach. Our pilot will take us to Uganda in the summer of 2017 to replicate the MANAS trial [..] The root of the intervention is baked in empowering local people”

- Pavel Reppo, Founder and CEO at Mindfullwe

4. What do you envision for the future of mental health leadership?

I envision mental health leadership in the future will:

  • Follow a bottom-up approach, where communities will lead and define their mental health priorities and programs
  • Have increased representation from low-resource settings of young researchers, scholars and practitioners, hopefully as a result of vast networks of the Movement for Global Mental Health
  • Respond quickly to emergency and crises situations based on established knowledge and practices in local communities, and sharing across communities
5. Are you attending the IIMHL Leadership Exchange this month? What do you hope to see and what are you excited about?
Dr Abhijit Nadkarni, Co-Director, Addictions Research Group at Sangath, and Course Director of the Leadership Mental Health course is attending the conference in May. He looks forward to the South-North bi-directional exchange of ideas and learnings and hopes to develop networks which will help expand the geographical reach of leadership courses such as the Leadership in Mental Health course. 

Sangath will be holding their 11th annual Leadership in Mental Health course during the 3-14th December 2018. For more details on how to register please view their forum post.

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