Inaugural APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health Conference Draws Global Partners to Vancouver

Delegates from industry and economic and academic institutions around the world will meet in Vancouver next week for the inaugural conference sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Digital Hub for Mental Health. The conference – APEC Innovation in Action: Building the Digital Hub for Mental Health – will help Canadian researchers led by Dr. Raymond Lam to identify partnerships and explore opportunities to create programs to improve outcomes in people with mental illness and reduce the associated economic and human capital burden in the Asia Pacific region.

The World Health Organization estimates that mental disorders will cost the global economy more than USD $16 trillion by 2030. Currently, average annual spending on mental health is less than USD $2 per person. Worldwide, more than 300 million people are affected by depression alone; 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.

“Being proactive about mental health – and taking advantage of technology to improve access to mental health tools – offers far greater long-term return on investment for governments and employers,” says Dr. Lam, Executive Director of the APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health. “We can save a lot more money investing in health than waiting to manage the impacts of mental illness on workers and bottom lines.”

The conference brings together researchers, clinical care providers, students, mental health advocates, the government, and the public, all of whom are invited to collaborate towards identifying and implementing priorities in addressing mental illness in all 21 APEC countries. The gathering is a critical step towards establishing a robust digital framework to facilitate international partnerships and catalyze progress on mental health initiatives throughout the APEC region.

Conference highlights will include a video-address from The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health for the Government of Canada, and a keynote presentation from Dr. Thomas Insel, high-profile neuroscientist, tech entrepreneur, and former Director of the National Institute of Mental Health in the US.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Canadians to play a significant role in leading the future of global mental health,” says Dr. Lam. “Canadian research, mental health advocacy, and technological expertise for this highly collaborative, game-changing initiative will be on display during the June 27-28 conference.”

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BACKGROUND

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.

The APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health maintains seven core focus areas indicated as strategic needs by member economies. These include workplace wellness and resilience, integration with primary and community care settings, advocacy and public awareness, vulnerable communities and children, mental wellness of indigenous communities, disaster resilience and trauma, and data collection and standardization.

The 21 APEC member economies represent 2.8 billion people, 60 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product, and 47 per cent of global trade.

Contact

For inquiries about the APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health, please email apec.mentalhealth@ubc.ca. To request an interview with Dr. Lam, please email emily.wight@brain.ubc.ca or call 604-827-3396.

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