January 13, 2020

Growing for the Global Good

Growing for the Global Good
2019 Year in Review

At the beginning of 2019, the GlobalMentalHealth@Harvard Initiative was still in its infancy. The previous year, the initiative had cultivated a sustainable following and support network that facilitated the execution of multiple community events. However, the Initiative was still finding its footing in regards to structure, reach and defining strategic priorities necessary to fully realize the established mission and vision. In 2019, the dedication of the Initiative leadership and community members fostered a year of accomplishments and exponential growth. Shared enthusiasm engendered programs that were able to catalyze internal and external connections, provide educational opportunities, and elevate mental health as a public good and fundamental human right.


One of the most noteworthy accomplishments in 2019 has been the engagement and connections made among faculty, staff, and students. The continued leadership of two key constituents, the Advisory Group chaired by Professor Arthur Kleinman and the Steering Committee chaired by Professor Vikram Patel, has exemplified the contributions and commitment of individuals with diverse experiences across our community. Driven by the desire of early career professionals and students to formally serve the Initiative in 2019, an Ambassador Board was founded to support the ongoing activities and continue to build the GMH@Harvard community. Moving into the new year, the three bodies are poised to significantly advance the mission of GMH@Harvard through expert oversight, strategic leadership, and inspired outreach.

“The momentum and solidarity from faculty and students across many of our schools and departments has been the most reassuring accomplishment as the essence of the Initiative is to bring together diverse perspectives to address one of the most pressing issues concerning humanity.” -Vikram Patel, Steering Committee Chair

In addition to the formal leadership, the larger GMH@Harvard community has also experienced tremendous growth through expanded communication efforts. The weekly newsletter now reaches more than 1250 individuals from all over the world with a curated list of events, news, and impact stories. In March, the GMH@Harvard Twitter account was activated and currently has more than 600 followers. Innovative outreach ideas are currently underway to expand our community by engaging individuals and organizations. 

“Through the continued collaboration between our students, early career researchers, community partners and individuals with lived experience I look forward to seeing more connections made that break down the silos of our specific disciplines and encourage us all to work together to truly transform how we think about and deliver mental health care.” – Juliana Restivo,  Program Coordinator


Educating and building capacity among future generations of scholars is central to the mission of GMH@Havard. Since commencement, the Initiative has supported the development and execution of two Harvard global mental health courses. The first was offered in Fall of 2018 and provided students with foundational knowledge on mental health and sustainable development. The foundations course is led by Professors Vikram Patel, Anne Becker, and Mary Kay Smith-Fawzi. During the following semester, a course dedicated to case studies in global mental health delivery began. This course is led by Professors Giuseppe Raviola, Vikram Patel, and Daniel Vigo. Professor Shekhar Saxena will also be joining the case studies teaching team this upcoming semester. Students across Harvard schools, including Harvard College, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health benefited from these course offerings. In the 2020 year, there will be continued educational opportunities through the continuation of these class offerings and the publication of a case-studies book edited by the Professors of the global mental delivery course. 


The GMH@Harvard Initiative aspires to elevate the profile of mental health as a fundamental public good and a universal human right. Throughout the past year GMH@Harvard has supported many events that foster collaboration, build community, and lift the stories of those with lived experiences of mental illness. 

The first major event that GMH@Harvard supported was a 2nd Annual Meeting hosted by the Harvard Center for Global Health Delivery – Dubai where 52 researchers, clinicians, and individuals with lived experience convened to discuss advancing community-based mental health services for serious mental illness. A subsequent conveying of collaborators and community members occurred in Cambridge during the GMH@Havard 2nd Annual Open Day where innovative research and inspiring work was showcased during flash talks from faculty, students, and others throughout our community. The event also included a keynote address from Patrick Kennedy who emphasized that ‘global mental health is the healthcare fight of our time’ by sharing his personal story facing stigma and experience advocating for mental health in the political arena. Most recently, GMH@Havard hosted ‘The Center that Cannot Hold’, a special event that elevated the lived experience of Dr. Elyn Saks’ experience with schizophrenia through an evening of opera composed by psychiatrist Dr. Kenneth Wells. To learn more about GMH@Havard past and future events that elevate mental health, visit https://globalhealth.harvard.edu/GMHevents.

Stepping into the New Year

“We have made very encouraging progress and I think we are definitely now in our toddler stage, walking independently but needing continuing guidance, support, imagination and commitment!” -Vikram Patel, Steering Committee Chair

The start of 2020 has come with renewed vigor among leadership to support the continued growth of the GMH@Harvard Initiative. Five priority workstreams (seen in figure below) set forth by the Steering Committee will guide the efforts, activities, and goals of the GMH@Harvard Initiative throughout the current year. Through these work streams GMH@Harvard seeks to continue to engage interdisciplinary and diverse perspectives, educate individuals and communities, and elevate mental health as a fundamental public good and a universal human right.

“In 2020, I hope to see more community events in Harvard, more engagement of students and junior faculty, and significant progress in our priority work-streams. Of course, I am always hopeful for a transformative gift which can help support careers and innovations in the field, not least by offering opportunities to learn global mental health by being mentored in real-world programs seeking to reduce the massive inequalities in mental health both in the US and globally.” -Vikram Patel, Steering Committee Chair

Global mental health continues to be one of the most pressing issues facing humanity. More than 80% of individuals in need of mental health care do not receive services. Today, mental health is still undertreated, underfunded, and undervalued. The GMH@Harvard Initiative activities and efforts planned for 2020 aim to cultivate a world where mental health is valued and realized by all.

More information about our activities can be found on our website https://globalhealth.harvard.edu/mentalhealth. Thank you for being a part of transforming the landscape of mental health. We are grateful for the support and inspiration from our collaborators and community members this past year. 

Written by Anna Bartuska 
Program Coordinator, Community Psychiatry PRIDE, Massachusetts General Hospital
Communications Executive Working Group, 2019 – 2020 GMH@Harvard Ambassador Board