Department of Psychiatry

Global Mental Health

Who We Are

The Global Mental Health (GMH) section is the global health arm of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, and is an active partner in the University’s global health strategy initiatives. It collaborates with international academic centres, non-governmental organizations and other local and regional agencies to build mental health research and treatment expertise around the world, increase public awareness of mental health issues, and influence governmental policy. GMH draws on the rich expertise and interests of Department members in its collaborations and also works actively to develop a culture of enthusiasm for global health work among trainees and young faculty. It works closely with the Office of Transformative Global Health at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, a teaching hospital affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto.

Director

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Dr. Arun V. Ravindran is Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Global Mental Health and the Office of Fellowship Training at the University of Toronto. He is cross-appointed in the Department of Psychology and Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Toronto, and is also Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa. He is also currently Chief of the Division of Mood and Anxiety Disorders at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
Dr. Ravindran trained in psychiatry at the University of London, followed by an MSc in Neurobiology from Brunel University and a PhD in Behavioural Neurosciences from Liverpool John Moores University. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists of the UK.
His wide-ranging research interests are in the areas of psychopharmacology and behavioural neurosciences, and his clinical focus is in mood and anxiety disorders.  He has held grant funding from national and international agencies, has published widely in his areas of interest, and is a two-time recipient of the R. O. Jones Research Paper Award from the Canadian Psychiatric Association.
Reflecting his long-standing interest in global mental health issues, Dr. Ravindran is active in several international organizations that focus on mental health training, capacity building and humanitarian aid in developing countries. He is an active member of the International Health Group at CAMH, is a founding member of the Asian Federation of Psychiatric Associations (AFPA) (a World Psychiatric Association affiliate), and is Chair of the South Asian Forum for Mental Health and Psychiatry International, Canadian Chapter.
His academic and global health activities share a common goal: To explore and implement evidence-based and innovative strategies that maximize mental health benefits for populations in need.

Vision

A world in which good mental health is the public norm and access to quality psychiatric care is a societal priority.

Mission

To promote collaborative mental health training and research between the U of T Psychiatry and international centres of learning and treatment.
To build sustainable capacity for mental health care, training and research in developing world regions.

Values and Guiding Principles

Social equity in mental health care
Effective, affordable and readily available mental health care for all people in all societies, regardless of socio-economic status, race, gender, religion, or any other socio-biological differentiator.
Sustainability
New mental health systems and services are designed to subsist within the framework of existing socio-medical resources.
Respect
Appreciation, understanding and accommodation of cultural diversity and socio-political realities, and recognition and inclusion of local expertise.
Reciprocity/Mutual Enrichment
Information sharing and knowledge exchange between all collaborative parties.

Goals

1. Improving Accessibility
Improve the accessibility and quality of mental health treatment around the world, particularly in economically disadvantaged regions and for underserviced populations.
2. Developing Local Expertise
Develop local expertise and facility for continuing education in mental health research and training in under-resourced world regions.
3. Maintaining a System of Knowledge
Maintain a system of ongoing knowledge exchange and collaboration between faculty members with an interest in global mental health and international academics/clinicians.

Strategic Initiatives

1. Maintain current academic collaborations with international institutions and establish linkages to new global academic and research centres.
(a) Previous partnerships that have been established with foreign academic institutions on interdisciplinary capacity building in mental health treatment will be further consolidated.
(b) New academic partnerships will be established with other countries with the goal of developing clinician-research capacity.
2. Build mental health treatment capacity in underserviced specialties.
(a) Training in areas such as forensics, child and adolescent mental heath, women’s mental health, and gender-based violence, will be initiated in regions where this expertise is lacking.
(b) The GMA will collaborate with local partners in the development and piloting of such programs/services. Some initial funding (for 1-2 years) may be provided.
(c) Research will be conducted into areas of need, with a focus on translatability into practical application, e.g. gender-based determinants of mental health, social correlates of substance use, socio-cultural mediators of stress disorders.
3. Expand mental health treatment capacity through strategic use of human resources.
(a) To increase access to mental health care in regions where psychiatric specialists are few, mental health training will be provided to primary care physicians to enhance early diagnosis and treatment.
(b) In regions where the mental health infrastructure is particularly weak (e.g. regions affected by war or natural disasters), mental health training will be provided to allied health and other professionals (e.g. social workers, nurses, teachers, government workers), to facilitate early detection of mental distress and access to treatment.
4. Engage students, residents and faculty in global health initiatives.
(a) Medical student and resident electives and post-doctoral fellowships in global mental health projects will be developed, leading to knowledge exchange between U of T Psychiatry and the global partners. Training will be shared between Canada and the host country and applications will be encouraged from both Canadian and non-Canadian sources. Some funding support may be available from the GMA.
5. Establish a system of knowledge exchange and collaborations between clinicians and academics involved in global mental health development.
(a) An annual conference will be established, hosted by the GMH, for faculty members and international partners engaged in global mental health work. Content will focus on training and research initiatives, priority areas, challenges and opportunities, student presentations, and new learning.
(b) Observerships in mental health treatment and research will be arranged for foreign clinicians at teaching hospitals affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto. Some funding support may be available from the GMA.
(c) Information on current GMH initiatives and future opportunities will be disseminated regularly to faculty members via email and will also be archived on the GMH website.
6. Develop information systems to support current and future GMA initiatives.
(a) A GMH website will be created with information on ongoing global mental health initiatives with U of T Psychiatry involvement, available projects for those interested in participation, and funding opportunities for development work and research.
(b) A database will be established to track historical and current activity in global mental health initiatives by U of T Psychiatry members. It will be linked to the GMH website for easy updating by students and faculty involved in this work.
(c) An information resource for visiting academics will also be stored on the GMH website. It will contain information on the U of T academic system, campus facilities and continuing education opportunities, as well as routine details on the City of Toronto and accommodation and transportation options.