A Call for Global Mental Health at Harvard

Is technology more helpful or harmful to mental health? What do we know about the genetics of mental disorders? Is happiness the key to healthy ageing? What role is there for precision mental health treatment in low- and middle- income countries?

These are some of the many questions that students and faculty alike will address in a three-day event that is the first of its kind at Harvard University. The Global Mental Health Open Day, driven and produced largely by students across the university and its affiliated hospitals, will kick off with a mental health hackathon on the evening of Thursday, April 5th.

Prizes worth up to $1,000 are available for the team that comes up with the most innovative solution to an enduring global mental health challenge. The hackathon will be followed by a day of student-led workshops and faculty “TED”-style talks on the college campus on Friday April 6th. Saturday, April 7th will feature an array of panels, workshops, and keynotes on the Longwood campus with distinguished members of the Harvard mental health community from across the breadth of academic disciplines.  

Notable speakers will include Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization and Dr. Ken Duckworth, Medical Director of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). They will be featured alongside Harvard’s own Drs. Vikram Patel, Giuseppe Raviola, and Anne Becker, three lead organizers of this young initiative.

The Open Day program will close with an opportunity for students and early career mental health professionals to learn about the diverse career pathways through the field in a high profile networking event. As Dr. Patel puts it, the goal of the Open Day is “to vitalize … the community at Harvard, to see this as a discipline with tremendous career opportunities, no matter where you are in your learning, from undergrad all the way through to junior faculty”.

The Open Day serves as a proof of concept for a larger project that seeks to strengthen the community of researchers and practitioners of mental health in the Harvard community. A website will soon launch to highlight the involvement in global mental health of members across the Harvard schools and their affiliated institutions, particularly the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Chan School of Public Health, the Medical School, the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute, McLean Hospital, and Mass General Hospital, among others. The next phase of the initiative will involve the development of a teaching curriculum for case studies in global mental health delivery. And there is more to come.

Harvard is paving the way for global mental health by creating space for interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration across schools and sectors. It is bringing people at various stages of learning to design innovative solutions to the complex challenges found in global mental health.  And students are responding enthusiastically to the call.

Catch up on the day by watching the webinar of Day 2: Global Mental Health Challenges and Perspectives.

Speakers include Dr Vikram Patel, Dr Shekhar Saxen, Dr Ken Duckworth and many more.

Training, education and capacity building
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