World Mental Health Day – 10 October 2022
10 October, 2022
Today, 10 October, the global health community celebrates World Mental Health Day.
This is an opportunity to raise awareness of disorders that affect as many as one in four people worldwide.
A recent 2022 study published in the Lancet confirmed that mental disorders remain among the top ten leading causes of health burden globally, with no evidence of reduction since the 1990s, leading causes being depression and anxiety disorders1.
Considering the hardship and loss experienced as a result of the pandemic, war, catastrophes caused by climate change, financial crises and so on, it’s easy for all of us to feel this advocacy day is no more than tokenistic.
However, in hope of shining light in the darkness, I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight three exceptional projects the College has had the privilege of working on. And I’d like to take this moment to show my appreciation for the achievements of the global mental health community and for volunteers worldwide.
The RCPsych was awarded its first larger scale grant through the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET).
Under the leadership of Makerere University and the East London Foundation Trust, we were able to co-deliver a 12-month project in rural Uganda, working with regional referral hospitals in Arua (West Nile) and Mbarara (Southwest).
Through a cascaded ‘train the trainer’ model, we were able to train more than 350 health professionals working on the frontlines of the West Nile and Southwest regions of Uganda, in the WHO’s mhGAP.
What’s even more incredible is that we did all this completely virtually. The goal of the project was to ease the strain on the national referral system as well as to strengthen community health systems by fortifying health information in rural areas, to improve decision making.
You’ll find a great article on the West Ugandan Mental Health Project in the Summer issue of RCPsych Insight.
My sincerest thanks to our volunteers who gave up several early mornings, Saturdays, and often both of those together. Thank you, Dr Nick Bass for your leadership and further thank you to Dr Nandini Chakraborty and Dr Peter Hughes.
We were also very lucky to be one of the few organisations to have their grants extended by our donors from the Department of Health and Social Care for our project in Ghana, in partnership with the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS) and THET.
This work is lead by four of our RCPsych Faculties, namely Old Age, Forensic, Child and Adolescent, and Addictions. Week-by-week our faculty volunteers work through tailored modules with 50 GCPS trainees, to support the development of subspecialty pathways in Ghana. I once again thank our dedicated team of volunteers for giving up their time to share their expertise. Thank you Dr Stephen Attard, Dr Bradley Hillier, Dr Krishnan Mani, Dr Ama Addo, Dr Josie Jenkinson, Dr Jan Melichar, Dr Helen Smith, Dr Mark Lovell, Professor Alka Alhuja, Dr Gemma Johns, Dr Joanne Doherty, Dr Ashley Liew, Dr Andrew Iles, Dr Alex Blackman, Dr Richard Latham, and Dr Andrew Forrester.
A project that’s been running for more than two years and is very dear to my heart has been the work in Palestine, in partnership with Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and the Bethlehem Psychiatric Hospital.
Our work providing bi-monthly supervision sessions to the four psychiatric trainees in the country, blossomed into supporting the drafting of their new national patient safety guidelines around the administration of safe ECT, and the drafting of a new mental health strategy for children and adolescents, to be formally adopted in the next couple of months.
Again, this work could not have been achieved without the dedication and passion of our members, namely Dr Richard Braithwaite, Dr Nadia Dabbagh, Dr Callum Ross, Dr Michael Gotz, Dr Bhathika Perera, and Dr Saadi Ali.
Lastly, I would like to thank Professor Mohammed Al-Uzri, Presidential Lead for International Affairs, for his leadership and dedication to the international work of the College. He has an excellent international team behind him coordinating every step of the way.
You’ll see that I’ve listed a total of 27 names for our 2022 global work, and I haven’t even mentioned our partners in Ukraine, Iraq, Qatar, the work of the Diaspora groups, our amazing MTI Fellows, and our International Divisions.
These are all members donating their time to the College’s international development work, next to full time clinical work and busy personal lives, ultimately demonstrating the unifying power of working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised.
This World Mental Health Day I’m celebrating our amazing community of mental health professionals who demonstrate daily their dedication to the specialty and to securing the best outcomes for people with mental illness across the world.
1. Global, regional, and national burden of 12 mental disorders in 204 countries and territories, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. (2022). In The Lancet Psychiatry (Vol. 9, Issue 2, pp. 137–150). Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2215-0366(21)00395-3