Conference addresses global mental health challenges
Mental health challenges are universal, but how they are diagnosed and treated varies around the world. A conference coming to the University of Toronto’s St. George Campus will explore these differences.
Going ‘Glo-cal’: Global Lessons for Local Benefit is a three-day conference focused on global mental health. Presented by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the University of Toronto, it will be held at Hart House May 6 to 8.
The conference has two goals, explains Dr. Arun Ravindran, a professor in the department of psychiatry where he is Director of Global Mental Health and leads the Office of Fellowship Training. He is co-chairing the conference with Professor Akwatu Khenti, the Director of CAMH’s Office of Transformative Global Health (OTGH) and an Assistant Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
“First, the conference is an opportunity to bring together all of the people working in this field who are based in Toronto so that we can share experiences and insights,” says Ravindran. “There are 30 to 40 international projects happening right now in this field. Ensuring we have the chance to share and coordinate these activities is essential.”
Secondly, the conference is seen as an opportunity to bring to Toronto some of the world’s top mental health practitioners and scholars.
“Often global mental health is thought about what ‘the West’ can do in developing countries. But the lessons we are learning abroad can benefit care and practice here at home too,” Ravindran says, noting that remote and rural areas in Canada, as well as marginalized communities including Indigenous populations, have benefited from overseas examples.
The three-day conference — which is free to attend and open to the public — will feature talks from acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta and mental health advocate Margaret Trudeau.
“Deepa has a very deep concern about female mental health in the South Asian community — both here in Canada as well as in Asia,” explains Ravindran. “Margaret Trudeau, who has been a vocal proponent for better care for people who suffer from mental illness, will speak as an advocate for improved mental wellbeing around the world.”
The conference will also include speakers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania, among others, as well as many experts closer to home. Topics include building capacity for mental health care delivery, prevention and intervention for gender-based violence, and legal and human rights protection for the mentally ill around the world.
Canada, which had been a leader in the field of international aid and development, is starting to regain its prominence in the area thanks to assistance from Grand Challenges Canada, Ravindran explains.
“Global mental health is one of the key priorities for Grand Challenges Canada, and they’ve been very effective at raising the profile of this field and delivering resources that ensures we are having impact,” he says. To date, Grand Challenges Canada has invested $32-million in 63 projects in throughout Africa, Asia, and South and Latin America/the Caribbean.
The conference organizers are very appreciative for the support the conference has received from CAMH and the University of Toronto(Department and Psychiatry, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and the Institute of Global Health Equity and Innovation), , as well as York University’s Faculty of Health.
“The registration fee was seen as a barrier by those we wanted to attract, so thanks to the support of our host organizations, we’re able to make this event free and open to frontline global health communities” says Ravindran. “Their inclusion will greatly contribute to the goal of developing a formal Canadian network for global mental health.”
Schedules and tickets for the conference are available on their website.