Fellows Propose Plans to Help Mental Health Patients

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Dec 19, 2014
by Louise Hallman
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Fellows Propose Plans to Help Mental Health Patients

New Paradigms in Behavioral and Mental Health session concludes with country plans for action The Chilean country team present their plan to Rwandan Health Minister Agnes Binagwaho

After four days of intense plenary and group discussions, the Salzburg Global Seminar session on New Paradigms in Behavioral and Mental Health concluded with presentations of the expert Fellows’ country action plans – and input provided by Minister for Health of Rwanda, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho.

The 70 Fellows, who consisted of clinicians, policymakers, academics, patient advocates, service users and their family members, came from across five continents, all with the purpose of improving mental health services and wellness for service users in their home countries.

In Europe, proposals included the “iMum” project – “improving Mums’ Mental Health” – seeking to help women suffering with post-natal depression in the UK; promotion of self-management of mental health conditions in Germany by supporting patients, their families and communities; and the introduction and expansion of peer-run support services in the Western Balkans.

Fellows from India sought to promote positive mental health on college campuses.

Young people were also the focus of proposed projects in Uganda; the Ugandan team developed the beginnings of a pilot project to expand mental health care services to children and adolescents, by raising awareness and identifying conditions early and providing access to age-appropriate care. Also in Africa, the team from Ghana plan to focus their efforts on lobbying the government to end the shortage of psychotropic medicines. In Rwanda, Fellows proposed using the omnipresent mobile technology to promote mental health wellness.

In South America, Fellows proposed a range of projects; from pushing for legislative change in Chile which would see the consolidation of mental health provisions and patients’ rights into one law; to the better use of primary care centers rather than psychiatric hospitals in the detection and treatment of mental health issues, particularly depression and alcohol abuse, in Colombia and Peru.

Two teams came from North America; one concerned with the wider US population and another focused on mental health care provision for Native Americans. The general USA team proposed a number of measures to promote better integration and collaboration of mental and general health services. The Native American team highlighted the need for cultural sensitivities when dealing with indigenous peoples, such as collaborating with traditional healers. They also proposed a follow-up session at Salzburg Global Seminar focusing on the specific health concerns of indigenous peoples across the world.

All the plans were presented not only to the group, which included representatives of the three sponsors of the Salzburg Global session – The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, the Robert Johnson Wood Foundation and the Robert Bosch Stiftung – but also Minister Binagwaho who joined the session via Skype from Rwanda for the fourth year in a row. Binagwaho offered advice on the next steps for the projects and how Fellows could best to approach ministers and policymakers in their respective countries.

The final outcomes of the five-day session will now be compiled in a substantive report to be published in the New Year and in a special edition of the Journal of Dual Diagnosis to be edited by session chair, Dr. Robert Drake, Professor of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center in the USA.

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