Friday April 28, 2017


28 April | Lima, Peru: Each year our Global Mental Health Program hosts a global symposium to advance mental health. Our 2017 meeting was today in Peru and our focus was on Mental Health and Substance Abuse: Priorities for Practice and Policy. It was an historic moment. For the first time ever, scientists, practitioners, policymakers, local and global NGOs, advocates, educators, state department and government leaders from more than 25 countries around the world assembled in Lima to advance the agenda globally on mental health and substance use disorders.

Kathy Pres Kennedy

Thrilled to have Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and former US Congressman Patrick Kennedy as allies in our work.


PPK. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, President of the Republic of Peru, honored us by attending the opening of the symposium and providing an introductory address. The son of a physician who dedicated most of his career to working in remote regions of the jungle, President Kuczynski expressed his commitment to prioritizing mental health within the national public health agenda of Peru. He also declared his commitment to expanding national funding for training the next generation of mental health professionals in Peru. It was an auspicious beginning.


PJK. Patrick J. Kennedy, former Congressman from Rhodes Island and Founder of the Kennedy Forum, provided the opening keynote address. He spoke eloquently about the study of the brain – and discovery related to mental disorders and substance use – being the scientific frontier of our time. Fifty-four years after JFK passed the community mental health bill of 1963, Patrick Kennedy now stands as the lead spokesperson in the United States advancing mental health parity. It was with raw honesty and brave conviction that he shared his personal story and the story of US mental health policy. In person and in his recent book, A Common Struggle, Patrick Kennedy’s energy and passion are inspiring and contagious.


SUD. That’s short for Substance Use Disorders. With Uruguay being the first country in the world to fully legalize marijuana in 2013, other South American countries are watching carefully to determine what they can do to reduce the public health and legal burden associated with drug use and drug addiction. The jury is out on whether Uruguay’s experiment is a success, and country representatives from around South America presented science and debated policy on this topic today. “Lively debate” would be putting it mildly.


WHO. The World Health Organization served as a co-sponsor of this symposium along with PAHO –  the Pan American Health Organization, and senior leadership from both WHO and PAHO were with us in Lima. WHO is in the home stretch of developing the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases, and Dr. Vladimir Posnyack shared critical updates regarding substance use disorders that will have implications for national health policy and programs in the future.


NOW. NOW is the time to act. President Kuczynski said the time is NOW to prioritize mental health in Peru, and Peru’s Minister of Health, Patricia Garcia, echoed his words. Former Congressman Kennedy said the time is NOW to redouble our investment in unlocking the mysteries of the brain. WHO and PAHO are NOW nearing completion of the 11th edition of the new ICD diagnostic system for all mental health and substance use disorders that will be used around the world. And the 300+ symposium delegates from over 25 countries finished the day with a renewed commitment to advancing mental health NOW.

What is your NOW?

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD - Is Professor of Psychology & Director of the Mental Health Program at CUMC