5-7-5: The number of syllables in the classic 3-line Japanese haiku made famous centuries ago by Japanese poet, Basho. As much as it is a constraint, this parsimony forces the poet to ponder what matters most. And with a distilled focus, capture meaning, experience, and emotion. New Year’s Eve is a time when we are all prone to ponder and reflect on the year that is about to close. What happened? What does it mean? How does it feel? But what can you really say in 17 syllables?
With a nod to Basho, join me in celebrating five mental health milestones of 2016 captured in 17 syllables each.
1. Sunlit journey forged / Global health targets proposed / Include mental health
January 1, 2016: The Sustainable Development Goals officially became the set of objectives that will guide all nations’ efforts for global development over the next 15 years. Mental health was explicitly included in the SDGs, unlike the prior development agenda – a major recognition of mental health as inextricable from other health goals; a major milestone for advancing mental health globally.
2. Mystery, madness / Schizophrenia et al / Science advances
As Jeffrey Lieberman recounts in Shrinks: The Untold Story, one hundred years ago, psychiatrists were injecting schizophrenia patients with malaria to induce fever that they hoped would extinguish the voices and delusions of psychosis. This year, geneticists published a landmark study shedding light on the biological cause of schizophrenia. Although we are still a long way from cure or prevention, we have an expanding foundational knowledge of the genetic and biological dimensions of mental health and illness. As science solves more mysteries of the brain, we have the potential to eliminate crazy ways that we have approached mental illness in the past.
3. Out of the shadows / World Bank affirms mental health / Bold beacon for all
April 2016, the World Bank hosted a pioneering meeting: Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Priority. Finance ministers, industry leaders, technology innovators, and multilateral organizations coalesced around the urgent investment needed in global mental health – and the expected returns on investment. Overshadowed for decades in the global health and economic development fields, mental health finally shares in the light.
4. Global local linked / Mental health network is launched / Care and knowledge soar
2016 witnessed the marriage of global mental health expertise and local wisdom with the launch of the Global Clinical Practice Network. Nearly 13,000 mental health clinicians from 151 countries are now connected and working together to improve mental health care worldwide. With the potential to transform research and training, the network is contributing to the latest revision of the world’s classification system for mental health and behavioral disorders.
5. Unfurling petals / Laws and policies bring forth / Humanity’s soul
Around the world, policymakers are repealing punitive laws and passing enlightened bills to advance mental health. Two 2016 highlights: India made strides to decriminalize suicide and the United States passed the 21st Century Cures Act, representing the most significant mental health legislation in the US in a decade. Every time societies design laws with compassion informed by science, we create a more humane world.
Mental health matters / Dark madness gives way to light / Thanks for your support
Wishing you a healthy and joy-filled new year!