Winter 2020 Global Mental Health

Global Mental Health is the area of research, practice, and advocacy that places priority on improving and achieving equity in mental health. Now more than ever, Global Mental Health is a growing concern in the United States and internationally. Low and middle income countries are home to more than 80% of the global population, with less than 20% containing resources to aid in mental health issues. As violence and turmoil increases in these global populations, effective treatment is important to improve the lives of people living with these disorders in all countries. Whether it be a temporary, mild condition or more persistent and serious condition, it is a concern for all humans. Join us for a discussion on mental health and its impact on global health.

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The UC San Diego Global Health Program, Students for Global Health, and Global Forum (International House) held our twelfth event in Quarterly Conversations in Global Health on Wednesday, February 19th, 2020 with over 150 in attendance! This quarter’s panel spoke to the topic of mental health and its impact on global health.

Quarterly Conversations provides a forum for the Global Health community to come together to discuss relevant issues in the field from an interdisciplinary perspective and increase community interaction at UC San Diego.

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Thank you to the community tables who participated in the event’s networking session: American Mock World Health Organization, Center for Global Mental Health, Global Health Reps, San Diego Access and Crisis Line, and Students for Global Health.


Thank you to the community tables who participated in the event’s networking session: American Mock World Health Organization, Center for Global Mental Health, Global Health Reps, San Diego Access and Crisis Line, and Students for Global Health.

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We were delighted to have Dr. Thomas Csordas, Director of UC San Diego's Global Health Program, moderating the event as our Master of Ceremonies.

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Bonnie N. Kaiser, Ph.D, MPH


Dr. Bonnie Kaiser is an Assistant Professor jointly appointed in the Department of Anthropology and Global Health Program. Her research focuses on elucidating cultural models of mental health and illness and exploring their connections to care-seeking; developing and adapting measurement tools for cross-cultural research and interventions; improving cultural adaptation of global mental health interventions; and critically exploring concepts of trauma, risk, and resilience. Dr. Kaiser began by discussing research in the field of mental health. She highlighted the difficulties of adapting measuring tools and exploring trauma as well as touching on the importance of cultural adaptation.


Dr. Kaiser went on to raise the question of how one might conceptualize and measure mental health cross-culturally. Dr. Kaiser used her research experience in Haiti to demonstrate the importance of bridging these cultural gaps. She then introduced another aspect of her research work which focused on the notion “idioms of distress.” Dr. Kaiser examined the “khyal attack” of the Cambodian culture as well as the Haitian “thinking too much,” to demonstrate how culture influences the language and frameworks an individual uses to describe their mental health. Given this diversity, Dr. Kaiser proceeded to discuss the measurement tools used to bridge these cultural divides and their effectiveness. Ultimately, she argues that the strongest measurement tool was that which combined idioms of distress and believes that advances in the field of global mental health will necessitate this broad use of this method.

Giselle Sanchez, M.A.


Giselle Sanchez, M.A, is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at UCSD.  Her primary research interests include culture and emotion, adolescence, and mental health among diverse populations. She is an engaged member of an interdisciplinary research team conducting research on adolescent wellbeing in Northern Mexico and on adolescent mental health in Southern California. She has published on the experience of loneliness among adolescents in Tijuana and has presented on various conference panels on Global Mental Health. Giselle’s discussion began with the health risks of loneliness, as well as the portrayal of loneliness as a “silent plague” in the media and news outlets, which leads to the overarching question of: what is loneliness? As part of the Center for Global Mental Health’s research team on Cultural Perceptions of Emotional Well-Being and Patterns of Help-Seeking (Bienestar), Giselle delves into how a surge in homicides due to cultural violence and defiant infrastructures in Tijuana, Mexico has impacted the everyday lives and mental health of high school students. Giselle and her team lead 35 interviews with students aged 15-17 years old, 26 interviews with parents, and focus groups with teachers to identify the socio-structural adversity and conflicts (i.e. economic precarity, structural violence, familial conflict and peer relation conflict) of this population. Though the interviews did not explicitly ask about loneliness, Giselle’s examples of students interviewed highlighted the social isolation of these students as well as the interrelations of between feelings of depression, anxiety and anger. As the ethnographic data from this population in Tijuana shows thus far, Giselle affirms that cultural validity matters and that there should be a focused attention to adolescent mental health.

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