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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

School of Health Inaugurates New Mental Health and Well-Being Initiative

The new initiative started with a talk by Judith Bass, professor at Johns Hopkins, about the importance of global mental health interventions.

A new initiative, which plans to unite Georgetown University students, faculty and the local community around mental health research, held its inaugural event on Feb. 8. 

The Global Mental Health and Well-Being Initiative, which will last approximately two years, promotes community engagement surrounding mental health issues on campus. Georgetown’s School of Health selected this initiative in October 2023 as one of two projects chosen for its “Big Idea” initiative, which seeks to promote interdisciplinary scholarship and solutions to complex health problems. 

Christopher J. King, dean of the School of Health, said these initiatives were created to provide insight into novel issues that have yet to be thoroughly studied.

“The successful idea would be bold, it would address a gap in scholarship, it would be time relevant, it would be problem-based,” King said. “And it would help shape the identity of Georgetown’s newest school, the School of Health: the school that would serve as the university hub for advancing health and wellbeing.” 

According to King, the initiative’s mission is to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health struggles and care to improve mental health worldwide. King emphasized that this can only be achieved if mental health professionals implement changes on a large-scale. 

“The School’s Global Mental Health Initiative is poised to expand the body of knowledge,” King said at the event. “It is poised to challenge the status quo. It is poised to inspire new thinking. It is poised to pave the way for policies, practices and norms that will improve mental health in communities across the world.”

Shabab Wahid, assistant professor in the School of Health’s department of global health and member of the initiative’s advisory board, expressed that he wants to use the initiative as an opportunity to generate positive mental health outcomes.

“What we hope to do is establish an interdisciplinary coalition of faculty, staff and students, that’s the community, to do three things: conduct research, develop pedagogy and then engage in informed activism and advocacy,” Wahid said at the event. “Why? To improve mental well-being and psychosocial outcomes locally, nationally and globally.” 

Georgetown University | The School of Health inaugurated a New Mental Health and Well-Being Initiative on February. 8, 2024 with a lecture on the importance of mental health interventions globally.

The Feb. 8 event included a lecture from Judith Bass, professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. During her lecture, titled “The Evolution of Global Mental Health Research: Where We’ve Been and Where We are Going,” Bass presented her research on the importance of mental health interventions for individuals in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Bass, who worked with the nongovernmental organization World Vision as a graduate student, began studying mental health in Africa during the first mental health intervention trial on the continent. 

“This was funded by World Vision, a nongovernmental humanitarian organization that said, ‘We are working in communities with high HIV prevalence and our community leaders are saying there are these problems that they can’t work with,’” Bass said at the event. She later added, “There’s these problems with mental health. There’s these problems of depression. There’s these problems of grief that we don’t have the tools to deal with.”

During the talk, Bass outlined the importance of long-term support and preventative measures against situations that trigger mental health challenges. 

“One of the things that we did, early on, because part of our capacity building is not just of the providers, it is to build the capacity so that our partners can do the same work that we’ve been doing,” Bass said. “So we created what we called the DIME approach: design, implement, monitor and evaluate.” 

Bass also described the need for a multifaceted approach to mental health scholarship and care. According to Bass, diversifying support for those struggling with mental health issues will reshape the mental health care landscape and increase access to helpful resources.

“We can’t be doing interventions here, interventions here. People need multiple levels,” Bass said. “Some people just need psychosocial support, but for those people who need more, they need to be able to access more.” According to Wahid, the initiative’s success hinges on its interdisciplinary nature and ability to provide support across a variety of levels. 

“Not only do the psychiatrists and the anthropologists need each other, but they need the epidemiologist, the health economist, the implementation scientists, the social justice and gender scholars and the list can go on and on and on,” Wahid said. “We cannot do it alone.”

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