The Department of Global Health and Social Medicine supports strong programs of mental health research, training and advocacy, while providing leadership in the fields of social and cultural psychiatry, psychiatric anthropology, international mental health and mental health services. Members of the Department are deeply involved in:
- “rethinking psychiatry” (Arthur Kleinman’s term),
- placing social and cultural forces at the intellectual and research core of psychiatry and mental health care;
- de-centering and ‘decolonizing’ psychiatric research and knowledge,
- criticizing ethnocentric practices that base psychiatric knowledge nearly exclusively on research with majority populations in North America and Europe, and
- demonstrating the importance of diverse populations, societies and cultures for basic knowledge of human experience and psychopathology;
- addressing issues of social justice and human rights associated with disparities in access to good quality mental health care; and
- placing mental health firmly on the agenda for global health.
The Department has a long, historic commitment to work in the field of mental health. Dr. Julius Richmond and Dr. David Hamburg were pioneers in science and advocacy for mental health and psychosocial programs for children. Dr. Leon Eisenberg, first Chair of the Department of Social Medicine, was a psychiatrist with wide ranging interests in social psychiatry, child mental health, and international mental health, having collaborated for years at the Division of Mental Health at WHO. Dr. Arthur Kleinman is a widely recognized pioneer in cultural psychiatry and psychiatric anthropology. Profs. Byron and Mary-Jo Good have been leaders in cross-cultural knowledge of mental illnesses and research on the culture of psychiatry within anthropology. Prof. Felton Earls is a psychiatrist who has done ground-breaking work on youth and violence in Chicago, and is now working with young people affected by HIV/AIDS in Tanzania. Prof. Norma Ware is a leading mental health services researcher. These faculty members are linked to collaborating psychiatrists interested in global mental health in the Harvard teaching hospitals, and a large network of former fellows and colleagues who are leaders in the field of social and cultural psychiatry around the United States and globally. Mental health services are increasingly critical components of infectious disease programs for MDR-TB and HIV/AIDS, conducted by other members of the Department, drawing strands of the Department together.
The Department has a long commitment to training programs in mental health care and mental health services research, focused both on the United States and internationally. The Department ran an NIMH training program in culture and mental health services for 25 years, and its international training programs in East Africa and Asia have focused on issues of global mental health. Today the International Mental Health Training Program, funded by the Fogarty International Center, brings psychiatrists from Shanghai and Beijing to the Department and is building on years of collaboration between the DGHSM and leading Chinese psychiatrists and psychiatric institutions.
The Department is committed both to basic research in social and cultural psychiatry and to advancing mental health care on the global health agenda, through research, critical thinking, and advocacy.