International mental health alliance brings together North East England and South Asian countries

Posted: 07/05/19

A new mental health alliance between six South Asian countries and the North East of England has officially launched its inaugural report.

The North East England South Asia Mental health Alliance (NEESAMA) was developed between partners from across North East England and six South Asian countries in 2018.

NEESAMA was set up in November 2018 and is jointly funded by the British Council, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) and Newcastle University. Its inaugural report was launched in April 2019 at a visit by the British Council to North East England.

NEESAMA brings together partners in Bangladesh, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the UK to focus on improving research, education and clinical service delivery within mental health services, by fostering collaboration between policy makers, researchers and clinicians from across South Asia and North East England.

The project aims to address key priorities within the World Health Organisation’s mental health action plan, which include providing a platform for sharing knowledge and expertise around mental health such as through promoting shared research opportunities, helping to fill the gap between mental health research, policy and practice, and developing sustainable international networks to achieve this.

NEESAMA is jointly led by two members of Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience, Dr Aditya Sharma, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Dr Jacqui Rodgers, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, with input from a steering committee representing all six South Asian Countries.

NEESAMA’s inaugural report looks at key research challenges in working with children and adolescents, working-age adults and older adults in South Asian countries, and identifies potential for achievable steps to begin working together to address jointly identified research needs.

The report also addresses enhancing the skill sets of mental health clinicians in South Asia and developing community-based services to cater to the needs of service users.

We welcome the launch of NEESAMA’s inaugural report, and look forward to working with both our partner organisations here in the UK as well as healthcare professionals in the six South Asian countries, which are part of the alliance.

We would like to emphasise that we see this collaboration as a two-way process, and hope that through this new mental health alliance we can all learn from best practice in our respective nations.

We will also be asking ourselves in particular how as a Trust we can support the community-facing aspects of mental health provision across South Asia.

John LawlorNTW Chief Executive

NTW can draw on its existing experience working with South Asian health and care organisations, such as the collaborative partnership the Trust launched earlier this year with Cadabams Group, one of India’s largest providers of mental health services.

NEESAMA is one of the ways in which the University Global Mental Health Academy Network is facilitating the University’s vision of ‘From Newcastle to the World’. The Global Mental Health Network is one of nine networks within our Global Challenges Academy, and we very much look forward to being part of the alliance’s work in the future.

Professor Pauline DixonProfessor of International Development and Education at Newcastle University and Co-director of the University’s Global Challenges Academy

NEESAMA’s next steps include determining what relevant training is available for healthcare professionals in the countries represented, detecting where there are gaps, and identifying early career mental health researchers in each country to become members of the alliance who could receive training and support for their research.

As the Director of the Institute of Neuroscience I am delighted and proud to have been involved in this initiative.

Adi and Jacqui’s passion and expertise have made this endeavour possible and the engagement from all the participants has been overwhelming positive and active.

The area of mental health is a growing problem and finding ways to reduce and alleviate this at a local and global level is seen as a very high priority by Newcastle University.

As an institute we have a very strong team of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists who, by working together, have shown that we are able to make a real and sustainable global impact on this distressing issue.

Professor Zofia Chrzanowska-LightowlersDirector of the Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University

NEESAMA members will meet later this year in October 2019 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to refine the alliance’s aims, look at practical steps to start putting them into practice, and initiate workshops on professional development.

The NEESAMA report can be downloaded here.

Image: Representatives of Newcastle University, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW), the British Council and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust at the launch of NEESAMA’s inaugural report at St Nicholas Hospital in Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne.