Our first newsletter!
Welcome to the Brain and Mind Institute's (BMI) inaugural newsletter! Through this venue, we will keep you, and all our global AKU stakeholders, regularly informed about Brain and Mind matters. We hope to highlight activities big and small, occurring at the BMI as well as in several of AKU's entities, championing mental health and neurosciences in the geographies served by AKU. The newly minted BMI began as a concept paper and the passion of conviction, which was soon matched by an enthusiastic endorsement by the President, the Provost and the Board of Trustees. Another significant boost of endorsement came from a Canadian philanthropist who made a multimillion-dollar donation to help seed and grow the BMI's mission to champion Mental Health and Neuroscience in developing countries. But this speed start of its launch was challenged by a 'speed bump' of the mounting crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic – which paradoxically further exacerbated our vulnerabilities to mounting mental health challenges. This spurred us to move quickly and innovatively to build a team and partnerships to carry forward an BMI's agenda across its four platforms of: 1) Research, 2) Education, 3) Innovation and Implementation, and 4) Engagement. The Institute now includes leading experts, scientists and dynamic new staff who are collectively forming an unprecedented aggregation of talent, focused on capacity building in East Africa (through BMI hub in Nairobi, Kenya) and Central/South Asia (through BMI hub in Karachi, Pakistan). As you explore this and future newsletters, you will learn more about our vision, team, and activities.
Turning our attention to the year ahead, we invite you to join us under the 'Big BMI Tent' in identifying and addressing some of the big gaps in access to care and knowledge. We would like to promote research that spans from the 'neuron to neighborhood'. In other words, we need to mobilize brain science and research to meet individual and societal mental health needs and well-being in our unique geographies and cultures. We at AKU are blessed with an amazing tapestry of expertise – which is uniquely poised to synergize to raise to the challenge, and to provide national and global leadership in mental health and neuroscience. Our newly developed Integrated Mental Health Framework will hopefully help guide the integration of efforts, and to meet those massive unmet needs in a more coordinated, systematic approach. As part of our contribution to address the rampant rise in mental health and neurological conditions, we are building a transdisciplinary Implementation Science Team of experts that will help identify large-scale gaps in service and knowledge, and seek solutions, seed, and grow them into actionable and sustainable strategies.
Although the BMI has only just started, we already pulse the tremendous passion and resolve of our AKU faculty and staff to addressing the huge and highly stigmatized mental health needs of the communities we touch. The BMI hopes to serve as a 'lightening rod' to channel this academic strength to promote and action the WHO's adage of 'there is no health without mental health'; although the challenges are daunting, the call to action is imperative and outlook is promising!
We operate across AKU’s multi-country campuses, connecting the rich tapestry of academic entities, and facilitating interdisciplinary research, education and related clinical programming in mental health and neurosciences.
The Committee provides support in the launch, implementation, and continuous improvement of the Institute’s activities. Key objectives include advancing scientific discovery in the discipline of neuroscience and leveraging research into action towards the mitigation of poor mental health.
The Integrated Mental Health Advisory Committee was tasked to formulate an Integrated Mental Health Framework for AKU, build communications channels to promote knowledge sharing and teamwork, and discuss areas of priority consideration for inclusion in the Framework.
This webinar sets out to showcase the critical interdisciplinary contributions anthropology brings to mental health, thereby providing knowledge to the general public. This webinar will also inform researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and community leaders of the many ways in which societal considerations of culture, history, religion, and more, become interwoven into the complex set of factors that determine mental health. Finally, the panel will consider several of today’s pressing issues, such as climate change, employment conditions, pandemic disruptions, and gender inequities, and how anthropological practice aims to address these issues.
Understanding mental health benefits of sports
Community-based interventions targeting youth are effective in preventing the onset of poor mental health. Seppe Verbist, Executive Director Kenya, Fútbol Más, a sport-for-development specialist is using sport as a tool for development.
Decriminalization of Suicide in Kenya
The webinar convened experts in suicide prevention and mental well-being for a dialogue on the context, issues, and rationale for decriminalization of suicide in Kenya.
Impact of Family Violence on Health Outcomes and Mental Health
This webinar advanced AKU’s Integrated Mental Health Framework goals by increasing awareness of the impact of violence on mental well-being; provided illustrations of AKU’s related research on violence and mental health; demonstrated readiness of AKU to undertake collaborative research on the impact of family stress and trauma on mental health, as well as reinforced the relationship between BMI and Harvard University’s Global Mental Health Initiative.
Preventing Suicide in Pakistan
The discussion offered an overview of the suicide prevention work done to date in Pakistan, opportunities for support by the state and other stakeholders, as well as major challenges facing suicide prevention interventions.