Spotlight on Mental Health

October 23, 2013

Faculty at the Mailman School are investigating the factors that impact existing and emerging challenges in mental health in the U. S. and around the world. In honor of the recent World Mental Health Day, here is a selection of current initiatives at the School:

Columbia Mailman School’s Global Mental Health Program Raises Awareness and Provides Opportunities for Faculty and Students

Mental disorders and substance abuse are estimated to be almost a quarter of the global disease burden—more than any other cause — yet, compared to other diseases, few resources are devoted to treatment and prevention. “From within public health there has been a commitment to a global understanding of health for decades, but mental health has largely been in the shadows,” says Dr. Kathleen Pike, a professor of epidemiology and psychiatry and executive director and scientific co-director of the Global Mental Health Program (GMHP). The initiative, a collaborative effort between seven schools at Columbia, is led by a partnership of investigators in the Departments of Epidemiology and Psychiatry, whose goal is to support faculty and prepare trainees in advancing the field of global mental health by building research ties and in low and middle-income countries, offering training opportunities, and raising awareness about mental illnesses. Read more: Global Mental Health Program

Mailman School Partnered on First Regional Conference on Autism in Latin America

Autism Speaks and RedeAmericas – the Regional Center for Mental Health Research – held the First Latin American Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in coordination with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the University of Chile. Nearly a dozen organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the U. S. convened at the Universidad de Chile, in Santiago on September 10-11. This marks the first time that autism was addressed at a regional conference in Latin America. Read more: First Regional Conference on Autism in Latin America

Columbia Mailman School Furthering the Research on PTSD

Dr. Yuval Neria, professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Psychiatry and director of Trauma and PTSD at the New York State Psychiatric Institute focuses on developing neuroscience-informed treatments for PTSD and furthering the research of extreme traumatic events, including disasters, terrorism, and wars. His work in PTSD is funded by NIH/ NIMH and NARSAD and such foundations as Stand for the Troops. Dr. Neria is also developing and pilot-testing an outreach, screening, and intervention for trauma related disorders for internally displaced women in Bogota, Colombia, research funded by Grand Challenges Canada. Read more: Furthering Research on PTSD

Columbia Mailman School Receives Grant for Research on Adolescent Exposure to Trauma and Urban Violence

Dr. Silvia Martins, associate professor of epidemiology, has been awarded a Columbia President's Global Innovation Fund Research Award to study the relationship between adolescent exposure to trauma and urban violence in Brazil and Chile. This unique opportunity to analyze the relation between trauma and child/adolescent psychopathology in large urban settings in Latin America brings together Mailman School researchers Drs. Sandro Galea, Magdalena Cerdá and Qixuan Chen in addition to Dr. Martins with collaborators from Brazil and Chile, who will also attend summer courses at the Mailman School. Read more: Adolescent Exposure to Trauma and Urban Violence

World Trade Center Studies Address PTSD, Respiratory Outcomes, and Unmet Mental Health Needs

Dr. Steven Stellman, professor of clinical epidemiology, is research director of the World Trade Center Health Registry, a cohort study of 71,434 survivors of the 9/11 disaster in New York City. Three recent publications co-authored by Dr. Stellman have focused on mental health of Registry cohort members. The first is a companion paper to an earlier study which described comorbid PTSD and lower respiratory problems in lower Manhattan residents, area workers, and passers-by. The second study reveals comparable findings of mental and physical comorbidity in 14,388 rescue/recovery workers. The second new study looks at unmet mental health care needs in 36,625 World Trade Center survivors. In the third and one of the few studies of persons exposed to 9/11 as children, Dr. Stellman and colleagues gathered data on 985 children and adolescents and noted that “respiratory symptoms were reported in 46.7% of children who screened positive for post-traumatic stress symptoms, compared to 13.3% of children who did not.” They also found that “respiratory symptoms were associated with 9/11 exposures in younger children and with behavioral difficulties in adolescents. Read more: World Trade Center Studies

Columbia Mailman School National Institute of Mental Health Grant for Study on Genomics of Schizophrenia in South Africa

Investigators at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and the New York State Psychiatric Institute received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study genomics of schizophrenia in the Xhosa population of South Africa, one of the world’s oldest populations. The study will lead to a greater understanding of the potential genetic mutations underlying the development of schizophrenia in African populations, which have been underrepresented in such research to date. The Columbia scientists, led by Ezra Susser, MD, DrPH, professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry, will partner with other leading investigators from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and the University of Washington. Study on Genomics of Schizophrenia in South Africa.