Time for united action on depression

Some of the key priority areas for the Brain and Mind Institute (BMI) are depression and suicide prevention (both highly correlated). The global call for action on these issues was recently highlighted by the Lancet-World Psychiatric Association Commission.

Evidence has accumulated over decades that depression is a leading cause of avoidable suffering in the world. Yet, too few people in communities, governments, and the health sector understand or acknowledge depression as distinct from the other troubles that people face. Not enough is done to avoid and alleviate the suffering and disadvantages linked with depression, and few governments acknowledge the brake that depression places on social and economic development.

​The Lancet Commission has synthesized evidence from diverse contexts and, in consultation with people with lived  experience, generated an action-oriented recommendations for a variety of stakeholders: communities and those affected by depression and their families; physicians and public health practitioners, and researchers who work to understand and address it; policy makers and financiers of health and long-term care; and those responsible for motivating decision makers and to act on evidence. The Lancet Commission's as well as Brain and Mind Institute's (BMI's) aims are aligned towards promoting concerted and united action to reduce the burden of depression globally. The BMI will focus more specifically on geographies and populations served by the Aga Khan University and the Aga Khan Development Network. For details see the Lancet Commission Report.

The presentation of COVID 19 pandemic has infused more urgency to this matter, through its impact on adverse societal factors such as structural inequities and stigma, societal isolation, bereavement, sickness, uncertainty, impoverishment and poor access to care. It has generated a so-called perfect storm, emphasizing multi-level responses, including need to the make the prevention, recognition, andtreatment of depression an immediate priority. 

In this context, the BMI has developed AKU's first ever “integrated mental health framework" that promotes a stepped care (or integrated care) approach, focused on entire continuum of care, ranging from those acutely ill, to those in need of preventive interventions or less-intense levels of care; from those relatively 'well' or 'at risk' to those 'moderately ill' or 'acutely ill.

In addition, through its Education Platform, BMI (in partnership with departments of Psychiatry and Community Health Sciences) is about to launch a series of micro-certification courses (leading to mental health ambassadorship) and Mental Health First Aid courses, to promote early detection, recognition, stigma reduction, and prevention of depression and other mental illnesses.

The BMI is also test-piloting innovative interventions, through mobilization of Lady Health Workers empowered digitally (using smart phones or mobile tablets) to screen and support members of remote or rural communities, right at their doorsteps. This approach called m-Pareshan, is being tested under the leadership of Professor Fauziah Rabbani jointly with Department of Community Health Sciences. The BMI has assembled a talented multidisciplinary implementation (or delivery) science team consisting of psychiatrists, psychologists, epidemiologists, data scientists, health economist, anthropologists, policy and educational experts, to address gaps in service andknowledge with innovative, yet pragmatic and impactful solutions, turning evidence into action.

Meet the New Members of the BMI Family

​We are excited to introduce to you our new staff who have joined us since December 2021!

We believe they will be a great asset in positioning BMI globally, and we welcome them to the team!​


Suicide & Self-Harm Prevention and Intervention​





Share your story

The Institute is interested in combatting stigma by opening up healthy conversations on mental health.  Furthermore, insights of people with lived experience can inform understanding and help determine appropriate research and programs. We invite stories from any point of view, including practitioners, researchers, community members and especially persons with lived experience. If you have a story or if you can suggest interviewees, please use this form to let us know.​​​​​

BMI – Medical College Self-Care Engagement at Elementaita

I lack the arrogance to ignore detail. Sherlock Holmes Season 4 Episode 1: The Six Thatcher 

Saturday, February 19, 2022, saw the Brain and Mind Institute engage with a team of 19 individuals from the Medical College including Programme Directors, the Associate Dean Medical College, PGME Director, Academic Officers and a Senior Manager.  This Medical College team supports over 155 Residents, who perform clinical work, as well as full-time academic students in 14 different residency programmes across campuses in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, besides fellows and medical interns.

This engagement was a meeting of minds to fashion strategies that would promote a better understanding of the self and promote a better understanding of others.  Especially for a team that has such a wide range of experts in training under their wings – experts that will be charting the future of medicine through critical and creative thinking, to solve problems by leveraging their attained specialist knowledge.

To support a better understanding of the self, the BMI team introduced several activities that required the Medical College team to use critical reflective observation and problem-solving skills to expose everyone to themselves further.  With a better understanding of oneself, you allow a better understanding of others and especially of persons considered to be under one’s charge.  The BMI team also used the Self Care & Lifestyle Balance inventory to complement the exposition of each individual within the session. This inventory was developed by the Headington Institute as an educational diagnostic instrument used to examine some of the more effective physical, psychological and spiritual methods of staying balanced and preventing burnout.

Working together we were able to determine the average level of self-care and lifestyle balance and then began conversations as to the implications for themselves and that of their charges.  Seeing as this was the first of three engagements, we are now responsively mapping the best way forward for the next two sessions to be had, careful not to ignore any detail/insights gleaned from our first encounter.

Neuroscience Segment

Your Input Counts! Spare 5 minutes to fill out our questionnaire

If you are involved in any aspect of brain health (mental health, neurology or neuroscience), we need your input!

Your feedback in this short questionnaire will be crucial in helping the Brain and Mind Institute to identify the existing Neuroscience and Mental Health expertise and interest across the AKU. This will help identify key domains of strength and facilitate future research and educational collaborations. Furthermore, it will guide future AKU-wide initiatives and investments. We greatly appreciate your time and cooperation!






Coming Up Soon

Thursday March 17th 2022
Wednesday April 13th 2022
Thursday May 12th 2022

Events Recap​

Global Mental Health: Reflections in Anthropological Practice Webinar

Championing Equity and Justice
in Global Mental Health​

Open conversations about suicide lived experiences

We are happy to receive your comments and feedback. Email us at Brain&Mind@aku.edu