Emory to host cross-disciplinary symposium on global mental health

By April Hunt | Emory Report | April 20, 2016

Scholars from both the social and health sciences will connect at Emory next week for the first Global Mental Health Symposium.

The two-day event, set for April 29-30, aims to assess the current state of global mental health while also evaluating the benefits and challenges of expanding anthropology’s role in the field. The goal is to explore new ways for researchers and clinicians to advance mental health and health systems research.

The symposium will feature thinkers from anthropology and public health, as well as scholars from medicine, theology and other fields.

Both the World Bank and World Health Organization have identified mental health as a major global health challenge of the 21s century, because common disorders such as depression are so widespread and disabling that they represent a significant proportion of the global burden of disease, says Peter J. Brown, professor of anthropology and global health in Emory College.

“This makes it an ideal time for Emory to engage more strategically with the field of global mental health, which has only recently begun to receive significant attention, funding and political buy-in,” says the symposium’s convener, Bonnie Kaiser, a recent Emory PhD/MPH graduate.

Brown explains that the impetus for the symposium was the recent publication of “Global Mental Health: Anthropological Perspectives,” edited by two Emory alumni, Brandon Khort and Emily Mendenhall. More than half of the book’s chapters were written by anthropologists and public health scholars who are associated with Emory. 

“At Emory, we have strengths in this area of research — from all sorts of schools and centers,” Brown says. “Anthropology uses both biocultural and cross-cultural approaches to the field. Therefore, the symposium will explore how the definitions and treatments of mental disorders vary across different cultures and how this is relevant to the design programs to mitigate suffering from them.“

The symposium takes place from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 29, and continues from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 30. Events will be held in the Whitehead Biomedical Research Building, the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Administration Building and the Anthropology building.

The event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided. Please register to attend.