Emory Pairs Up to Form Global Mental Health Center

In collaboration with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Emory University opened a Center for Global Mental Health last December.

Located on the campus of the Shanghai Mental Health Center, the collaboration between the two institutions seeks to promote “mutual cooperation in mental health research and educational activities,” according to the GMHC’s memorandum of understanding.

Officially called the Shanghai Mental Health Center-Emory University Collaborative Center for Global Mental Health, those involved hope to create a fluid exchange of different faculty members and scholars between the two institutions.

Both universities offer prominent staff and resources. According to an Emory News Center article, Shanghai Mental Health Center boasts one of the most expansive health institutions in China and treats close to a million patients a year. Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center also performs ground-breaking research in neuro-health.

The collaboration, though, has encountered some problems.

“The Center is in its infancy,” said Dr. Mark Rapaport, professor and chair of Emory’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department. “Some of the challenges we face are securing adequate funding for the success of the Center and engaging all members of the Emory community in this partnership,” he continued.

Dr. Michael Phillips, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in Emory’s Department of Global Health, has been appointed director of the GMHC and, according to the MOU, is responsible for “coordinating the activities of the two participating institutions, for promoting the activities of the Center both nationally and internally, and for fundraising to support the activities of the Center.”

Phillips has been a permanent resident of China for more than 25 years, after receiving his BS in psychology from McGill University, among other degrees.

“As a platform for academic exchange, this new Collaborative Center will expand Emory’s opportunity to understand and participate in the dynamic transformation of China’s mental health services,” Phillips said in an interview with Emory News Center.

The National Center for Mental Health of the China CDC reported in 2009 that an estimated 100 million people suffered from some sort of mental illness in the country alone, and another 16 million suffered from severe mental health problems.

Students had strong reactions to the general topic of mental illness in both China and the United States.

“To be honest, anything that would promote conversation and research about mental health sounds like a good idea to me,” said Nikki Reynolds, a college sophomore. “I think that part of the problem with mental illness in the U.S. is that we, as a society, don’t want to talk about it. We can talk about alcoholism and drug abuse, and we have plenty of programs to help those people, but mental illness as a whole gets thrown under the rug.”

Some students saw the initiative as a golden opportunity to access new ideas and resources.

“I think it’s a good thing to share information on mental health among different countries since different cultures may have different ways of treating certain behaviors,” said Ho Joon Hwang, a college sophomore and biology major.

—By Minah So