Global Mental Health: An Introduction

Article from the January 2014 Edition of Global Mental Health Newsletter, written by Dr. Bill Froming, PAU Provost

Members of the PAU community have been active for years doing work around the world. It is time to recognize these efforts and provide a forum for the community to learn about them. They fall under the umbrella term of Global Mental Health. Global Health has been developing for years with the recognition that there are pandemics (e.g., HIV/AIDS, H1N1 virus) that need to be fought across borders. Global mental health is now starting to be recognized as an important area in its own right. (See recent World Health Organization (WHO) Mental Health Action Plan.) There are a number of ways to think of it. An introductory video you can watch from the WHO. You can also read more about the topic. To capture what PAU has been doing I have divided our efforts into 6 categories:

1) Emergency Mental Health Dr. Larry Beutler and Dr. Lynn Waelde were both very active in post-Katrina New Orleans. Dr. Beutler’s work is discussed in an American Psychologist article where the complexities of this kind of work are evident. Dr. Waelde has just returned from the Philippines where she delivered mindfulness training to the people suffering from Typhoon Haiyan. This work can take place wherever the emergency occurs but often the staffing needs to be supplemented, be it domestically or internationally.

2) Training mental health professionals The number of mental health professionals in many countries around the world is often a fraction of what you find in the US and what is needed to handle the growing demands in the country. Training mental health professionals is one of the goals of PAU’s GACE program (Global Advancement of Counseling Excellence). We are now in our 3rd year of training counselors in China and currently have 40 students enrolled there. We are developing sites in Latin America and India as well. Dr. Field was helping train psychologists and conduct research in Cambodia.

3) Conflict Mediation Byron Bland has been very active in Northern Ireland, along with Dr. Waelde, in facilitating intra and intergroup processes that reduce the political tensions. Dr. Calvin has been working to bring about peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East.

4) Building Infrastructure Many countries lack not only mental health professionals but also the educational infrastructure with which to train them. Many countries have master’s programs in psychology but they are typically very theoretically oriented and don’t prepare students to see clients. PAU’s GACE program is also partnering with other educational and mental health facilities to create training programs that will produce trainers who will in turn become the educators of the future in their country.

5) Empirically Supported Treatments Some countries have mental health professionals but are not oriented to providing training in treatments that have been empirically supported. Though many aspects of psychotherapy have not been tested, there is now decades of work that does indicate what the most effective forms of treatment are for certain kinds of disorders. Providing the best treatments possible is also a goal of our outreach efforts. Dr. Munoz i4Health efforts are providing valid information and treatments on the web around the world. For more details please see Dr. Munoz’s website.

6) Policy Efforts to Develop Training Standards With the development of training efforts in many countries and the movement of mental health professionals across borders, the issue of standards for training become important. Issues like accreditation of programs, internships, post-doctoral training, etc. are being discussed internationally and will shape the field in the future. This newsletter will give you an idea of all the things PAU is doing and how you can get involved. We will publish periodic updates to keep you informed as to how the programs continue to develop and what new efforts have been initiated.

We hope you will join us in this exciting work. And if you are interested in contributing to or sponsoring Global Mental Health projects at PAU, please contact .

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