This year, for the first time ever, the MQ Science Festival was fully virtual and completely free, leading to a sold-out event with 405 participants from 37 countries, and many more people watching the recordings on YouTube.
But besides its success as a conference, the crucial question is ‘Does this event make tangible contributions to mental health?’ We are confident to say that it does.
The progress we have seen makes a case for some well-founded optimism, which is always needed. This is why we share below our Top 5 Calls to Action from the 2022 MQ Mental Health Science Festival, in reference to the past Top 5 from the 2021 Summit.
We hope this shows how every year the conversations also advance in depth, we see more comprehensive, bold and diverse examples of research that improves mental health interventions on areas that matter to people the most. We see increasingly dynamic collaborations with Lived Experience Experts, and even more being sparked through the event: 75% of feedback respondents either have or plan to connect with another participant.
We are incredibly proud and thankful to the Mental Health Science Community for making the Festival such a diverse, impact-driven and collaborative space.
Remember you can watch all of the expert presentations and discussions on the MQ YouTube channel here.
Takeaway from 2021 MQ Science Summit: Increase cross-sectoral collaboration
Progress in 2022: We have advanced in collaborations among mental health stakeholders, but influencing policy is a persistent challenge.
As a health science community, we need to be better at addressing the elephant in the room. The lack of transparency, accountability and good policies from our elected governments.
Science is not being heard. Shekhar Saxena, Ricardo Araya, and others incisively pointed out that often the bottleneck for effective action in mental health is not lack of evidence but a lack of political will. In other words, we have a sound idea of what needs to be done. We are just not doing it.
“Go to your governments, approach them and ask them to implement”
Shekhar Saxena speaking during the 2nd day of the #MQScienceFestival
Policy options exhaustively backed by multi-disciplinary scientific consensus, and human rights keep being ignored. This is the case of holistic obesity prevention policies, protective environments for childhood and sexual-reproductive health.
We need to join and improve advocacy efforts across health and development sciences, so that they are proactive, systematic, specific and ultimately, effective.
Call to action 2: Cultivate partnerships based on our shared sense of humanity, compassion and optimism.
Unexpectedly, the Festival shed a huge light on how we are all so eager to connect with our sense of shared humanity. To feel that people genuinely care for each other. Compassion, solidarity, community and belonging were recurrent themes across the five days, as integral components of our mental health and wellbeing.
As Damian Juma pointed out, with so many people in the world experiencing unfairness and feeling “otherised” for different reasons, it is crucial to promote a shared understanding that we are ‘whole’ together. Although we are born into very – and increasingly – unequal circumstances, our human essence is equal
The four elements of compassion Lizz Grant shared during her talk, help to appreciate how much it is a collective survival mechanism and an essential part of our human nature. As we all have the capacity and can be better at
Interpreting the suffering
Cultivating these elements is crucial to build up the pillars we need for trusting each other and trusting our institutions, so that we can feel connected, supported and optimistic.
Takeaway from 2021 MQ Science Summit: Increase multi-disciplinary collaboration
Progress in 2022: Multi-disciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration, particularly with technological industry, is leading to remarkable progress in whole person approaches to health and wellbeing. However service provision is highly fragmented.
Call to Action 3: A whole person approach to health
At the Festival, we saw promising solutions integrating mind, body and brain. Yet, in practice, health and social services are fragmented, inconvenient or inaccessible for most people.
Being the first point of contact between a person and the health system, a strong primary care is essential to advance towards more holistic healthcare, and should be more integrated with social services (i.e. education and income support), considering the broader context of the person. General practitioners, lay health and social workers are fundamental to comprehensively assess the needs of a person, provide early support and refer to specialised services when needed. We also learned from Tanatswa Chikaura and saw from Kelvin Opiepie the difficult conditions in which they operate, often through unpaid work.
Alternatives to advance on this path include: prioritising prevention, investing in primary care, “mix and match” social and health interventions (i.e. social prescribing, psychological counselling, income support, employment advice), and increasing opportunities for career and salary progression in lay and primary care.
This was highlighted during the Premature mortality discussions on Day 4 of the #MQScienceFestival, particularly by Professor Carol Worthman explaining the approach of MQ’s Gone Too Soon programme to address premature mortality.
Call to Action 4: We need to facilitate careers in mental health science.
Call to Action 5: Advocate for transparency and regulations for digital technologies in mental health
Digital technologies offer countless opportunities to improve the prevention, detection and treatment of mental health conditions and increase access to healthcare.
We saw a wide range of examples of applications of digital technologies in mental health; to comprehensively help people during the pandemic , generate safe spaces online and improve treatment personalisation.
However, these are accompanied by risks and challenges that need to be addressed to ensure digital mental health products work for people and not the other way around. One of these challenges – which is also crucial for patients and users to be aware of – is that right now there are no quality or ethical standards for the use of digital technologies in mental health, or any regulation on the information they collect and how can it be used.
Furthermore, we do not even know which body or governance would be in charge of providing those standards or which calls for more advocacy and cross-sectoral work.
You can watch all of the presentations and discussions from the #MQScienceFestival here.
The post Top five calls to action from the #MQScienceFestival first appeared on MQ Mental Health Research.