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 globally. 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 placing mental health on the global health agenda, through research, critical thinking, and advocacy. The following are some of the current programs and research projects, which represent this commitment, organized by more specialized areas of interest.
Global Mental Health
The Department’s Program in Global Mental Health is dedicated to teaching, research, and critical thinking aimed at understanding mental illnesses in global perspective, bringing attention to the great disparities in services between rich and poor countries and communities, advocating for increased investment in mental health care and the rights of the mentally ill, and in bringing innovative approaches from global health delivery to bear on these critical problems in a manner that can bring hope and recovery to persons whose conditions have long been considered hopeless.
Current research in the Department includes the following:
- Social Transition and Risk for Disordered Eating in Fiji, Anne Becker
- Longitudinal studies of the onset and course of psychotic illness in Java, Byron Good (with team in Yogyakarta, Indonesia)
- International Pilot Study of the Onset of Psychosis (IPSOS), Byron Good, Karen Kwass, Larry Park (with collaborators in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Taiwan, and Indonesia)
- Psychosocial Needs Assessments in High Conflict Affected Districts of Aceh, Indonesia, Mary-Jo D. Good, Byron Good
- Direct Health and Psychosocial Assistance Project - Extension (DHPAP - Mental Health Services Project in Post-Conflict Aceh), Byron Good and Mary-Jo D. Good
- The Effects of Livelihood Interventions on Mental Health Outcomes among Acehnese receiving outreach mental health care to treat conflict and trauma related disorders in Aceh Indonesia, Byron Good and Mary-Jo D. Good
Mental Health Services
The Department has a long history of research, teaching and advocacy focused on improving mental health services in Boston and the United States. The NIMH training program has had a special focus on diverse populations in the greater Boston community. Norma Ware has built an important program of research focused on using diverse methods to improve mental health services in the United States.
Center for Mental Health Services Research, Norma Ware, Co-investigator
A Services Approach to Preventive Mental Health for Adolescent Refugees, Norma Ware, Co-investigator
Consumer Perspectives on Family Involvement in Care, Norma Ware, Co-investigator
“Measuring Social Integration in Recovery from Severe Mental Illness,” Norma Ware. Measure Development Project in Collaboration with the Nathan S. Kline Center for Psychiatric Research, and the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, Lebanon, NH
International Child Mental Health
Members of the Department are actively involved in research on child and adolescent psychosocial and mental health, as well as mental health services for children, in the United States and globally. Members of the faculty are leaders of the International Children’s Mental Health Program.
Ecology of HIV/AIDS and Child Mental Health in Tanzania, Felton Earls, PI
Mental health needs assessment in Nigeria with Patricia Ibeziako, Myron Belfer
Long-term outcomes of patients post craniofacial surgery with John B. Mulliken, MD, Myron Belfer
Pictorial assessment of depression in Hondura adolescents with Andrea Spencer, HMS IV Student PI, Myron Belfer
The Psychology of Place: Determinants of Mental Health and Psychosocial Functioning in Tsunami-displaced Children in Aceh Province, Indonesia with Myron Belfer, MD, Principal Investigator, Beverly Du, HMS IV, Christopher Lee, HMS II, Edward O’Rourke, MD, HMS
Developing an economic model for the cost of child mental disorders. A collaborative project with economists from the University of California, Myron Belfer
International Children’s Mental Health Program
The International Children’s Mental Health Program is sponsored by the Department of Psychiatry at the Boston Children’s Hospital and the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine of the Harvard Medical School. This program was originally conceived in 2001 as part of the Harvard Children’s Initiative. In the ensuing years the program has provided a venue for the faculties and students of Harvard University and other educational institutions in the Boston area to share their interests and activities related to child and adolescent mental health. The ICMH program was supported to convene symposia on selected topics of interest to the Harvard community and other interested parties. Topics included the impact of migration on child mental health, the influence of transnational marketing of medications, and the consequences of corporal punishment. Major conferences were held that highlighted such issues as violence impacting children in urban settings, and the impact of war and terrorism on the mental health of children. Specific technical workshops were held to describe the issues related to doing research in field settings impacted by war, and informative workshops were held for groups such as Women Waging Peace.
An interactive listserve has been developed to facilitate communication among interested individuals in the greater Boston area, and a calendar of events for those interested in international mental health is available on the Children’s Hospital web pages. Individuals associated with ICMH program are available to students and fellows for mentorship and advice on issues related to child and adolescent mental health.
A formal training program for international students and others is now available that combines the resources of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and the Boston Children’s Hospital. A more detailed description of the training program and an application can be found here: