Canadian researchers lead global mental health initiative

An international collaboration to address the economic costs of mental illness in member nations of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum has been underway for a year under the leadership of Dr. Raymond Lam at the Mood Disorders Centre at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.

The project, called the APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health, is a cluster of academic, industry and government partners seeking innovative ways to improve access to mental health care for working people who, in some cases, have limited access to quality care or difficulty securing continuous care for depression and other mood disorders. Globally, over 450 million people currently suffer from mental or neurological disorders while one in four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in life. APEC member countries are home to 2.8 billion people.

APEC recognized mental health as a priority in 2014, and since then inclusion and empowerment of people with mental and psychosocial disabilities in the workforce has been a key objective. And now, with the support of the Public Health Agency of Canada and a mandate to explore issues in global mental health, the Hub team is in a position to begin affecting change.

“One of the goals of the team behind the Digital Hub is to establish an APEC-wide set of standards for psychiatric support in the workplace,” explains Dr. Raymond Lam. “When we meet in Vancouver in June, our goal is to connect with interested clinicians and researchers, as well as members of industry and the public to work together to establish best-practices for supporting workers with schizophrenia and depression.”

To improve inclusion and reduce the burden of mental illness on peoples’ careers and APEC member economies, APEC leadership called for the establishment of the Digital Hub, an online portal connecting public and private sector stakeholders and medical caregivers to promote innovative approaches to preventing and treating mental illness and strengthen mental health. The Hub will unveil its digital space in June at a meeting of APEC Digital Hub stakeholders, partners, and those interested in mental health issues.

For more information, visit mentalhealth.apec.org. To register for the meeting in June, visit APEC Innovation in Action: Building the Digital Hub for Mental Health.

The Digital Hub is hosted in Canada at the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with the University of Alberta and the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation is a regional economic forum established in 1989 to leverage the growing interdependence of the Asia-Pacific.