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From treatment to transformation: Promoting Social Interventions in Global Mental Health

From treatment to transformation: Promoting Social Interventions in Global Mental Health
Speaker: Dr Rochelle Burgess PhD, FRSPH # Deputy Director UCL Centre for Global NCDs, Institute for Global Health, UCL; Hosted by: Dr Sumeet Jain # Senior Lecturer in Social Work; SPS International Director; Programme Director, PG Certificate Advanced Social Work Studies (Mental Health Officer Award)
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Date and Time
26th Feb 2019 16:00 - 26th Feb 2019 17:30
6th floor Staff room, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, Edinburgh

The recently published Lancet Commission of Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development seeks to launch a new era for the field – one that emphasises the links between mental health and wider social and structural determinants. This positioning is critical as the movement seeks to move beyond its critics, and acknowledge the complex realities of the spaces where mental health is lived.

However, despite explicit recognition of the importance of social determinants, suggestions for action in these areas place the onus on actors outside the health sector, calling on intersectoral action involving social welfare, criminal justice and development sectors.  Such suggestions are not new, and unfortunately do not move us beyond the current impasse facing mental health care in LMIC, which is marked by two key challenges; (1) a lack of ownership in terms of ‘responsibility’ for mental health services in the context of multi-disciplinary work or (2) the limitations facing packages of care that focus on psychological or psychiatric dimensions of distress and in some cases the socio-relational challenges facing patients and communities.

This presentation will highlight a need to revisit our approach to the notion of the ‘social’ in our efforts to respond to mental distress. It argues that what is currently framed as ‘mental health promotion’ – efforts that focus on engagement with socio-structural drivers of distress – should also form the focal point of how we think and plan for treatment. Drawing on case studies from research carried out in South Africa (2016) and Colombia (2018) the presentation suggests that opportunities to extend the parameters of treatment to support community led action on socio-structural drivers of distress can be integrated into ‘mainstream’ treatment modalities. In doing so, interventions can contribute to the creation of health enabling environments where mental health and wellbeing can be sustained in the long term. Implications for practice in LMIC settings are discussed.

Biography: Rochelle Burgess is a Lecturer in Global Health and Deputy Director of the UCL Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases, at the Institute for Global Health at UCL. For the past 10 years she has worked on global health issues with an emphasis on community participation and qualitative methodologies. She is interested in the promotion of community approaches to health globally, and views communities as a route to studying and responding to the interface between health concerns and broader development issues such as poverty, power, systems of governance, and community mobilisation (civil society).  She is the founder and director of the Global Network on Mental Health and Child Marriage, which seeks to drive attention and research into the under recognised and under addressed trauma linked and mental health consequences of early, forced and child marriage globally. Using community psychological approaches, she has worked primarily in participatory research exploring community mental health care systems and their capacity to respond to the needs of marginalised groups, including HIV/AIDS affected women living in poverty in South Africa (since 2007), and Black and Minority Ethnic groups in South West London (since 2013) and internally displaced populations in Colombia (Since 2017). She is co-PI of a study exploring the post-conflict mental health needs of internally displaced communities in Colombia with an emphasis on female ex-combatants and the afro-Caribbean community. 

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