Thursday 20 October 2011

MC-MH: Global Integration—7

GI Footprints

We are sharing some thoughts on future directions for integration. Integration is a field of study which brings together the disciplines of mental health and theology in order to better understand and help humans and thus glorify God. The ongoing/additional links between member care (MC) and mental health (MH) are highly relevant for the global development of integration—global integration (GI). And GI is potentially very relevant for the global development of mission/aid and human health.

Photo courtesty Michael Trezzi, TrekEarth

I am in Cape Town, RSA, having just finished participating in two special conferences: the Summit of the Global Movement for Mental Health and the World Mental Health Congress. I am back in my hotel room in the center of Cape Town and in view of the majestic Table Mountain which dominates the skyline. As the conference organizers have said to the participants, ‘you have come to leave your footprint in Africa and to also help Africa put its footprint on Global Mental Health (GMH).'   

It has been a terrific and rewarding four days of conferencing, meeting many new and old colleagues from around the world and attending outstanding plenaries, symposia, and workshops. Collectively we have indeed contributed to the GMH footprint here on African soil and reaching far beyond!
Dr. Pamela Collins, National Insitutue of Mental Health, USA 
reviewing the "grand challenges for global mental health."

Global Footprints
Some of the more noteworthy presentations for me personally dealt with assessing and treating people exposed to violence/trauma; ethical issues in photographing people with serious mental conditions including people in chains and cages; residential treatment services and mental health practices in countries such as Mauritania and Uganda; progress in scaling up services for mental health globally in the last 10 years; a listing of core resources in the GMH field; empirical evidence for the efficacy of mental health interventions in humanitarian settings; highlights from the recently published Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health study; a review of the emergency mental health response to the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Japan on 11 March 2011; and two outstanding South Africa films with themes of HIV-AIDS, crime, dysfunctional and resilient  families and communities, poverty, and courage (Life, Above All  (2010, click for trailer) is the story of 12 year-old girl trying to help her family survive and the Oscar-winning film Tsotsi (2005, click for trailer) about the life of a young gang leader.

Two resources in particular to pass on to the health and mission/aid sectors:
  • The Lancet special issue on Global Mental Health (2011), available online for free and officially launched here at the Summit; and
  • Several informal interviews (three-minute video clips) of participants discussing their work and presentations (including myself).  I highly recommend going through these two resources as well as viewing the two movies mentioned above. (link hopefully coming soon)
Local Footprints
Perhaps more than anything what stood out to me the most was the opportunity on the day after the Congress to go from the conference center to the community center. Over 100 delegates visited a variety of facilities and programs providing mental health and psychosocial support to people with intellectual and mental disabilities. It was heartening to see the dedicated staff as well as the quality resources being made available by the government to support its citizens. The Erika Special Education and Care Centre (for children with severe and profound intellectual and physical disabilities) and Training Workshops Unlimited (for job and skills development for those with intellectual and/or mental disabilities) located in the Mitchell’s Plain area of the Cape, were just two of the many outstanding community service centers that were visited. One of the main take-aways for me from this community experience was that whether we are in GI or MC, MH or GMH, highly “skilled” or highly “disabled”, African or European, people of faith or people of non-faith, etc., to paraphrase the words of the psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan, ‘ultimately we are much more similar to each other than we are dissimilar.’

Erika Special Education and Care Centre, Mitchell's Plain, RSA 

Integration Footprints?
I was hoping to connect more with people and presentations in the integration field. The closest topics were two papers in a small section called Ethical and Spiritual Issues: “The healing of pathological gambling with psychiatric co-morbidity” and “Facing the existential challenges of HIV-AIDS with the African adventure cards for a meaningful therapeutic narrative”. Most Africans I know or met here among the 850+ delegates are quite open and even desirous to include faith in the dialogue about mental health and overall human wellbeing. Their deep faith in God is a natural part of their lives, including their work lives. Integration here seems more experiential than conceptual. This integrative openness in Africa can provide fertile soil to further cultivate GI. I sincerely hope in future GMH-related conferences that GI will be explicitly present and indeed leave its mark—its footprint—in our efforts to promote a healthier world.

Reflection and Discussion
1. Are there places globally that you are aware of where GI is indeed making its mark and leaving its footprint? If so, where?

2. List three things that can hinder and three things that can facilitate the inclusion of spirituality in the GMH agenda.

3. Why might it be easier to spend time at a conference center rather than a community center?

No comments: