Enhancing mental health research capacity: emerging voices from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) global hubs

Andrea Tenório Correia da Silva, Charlotte Hanlon, Ezra Susser, Graciela Rojas, Heloísa Garcia Claro, Julieta Quayle, Kassahun Habtamu, María Soledad Burrone, Maria Tavares Cavalcanti, Mona Sharma, Marguerite Schneider, Ramesh Prasad Adhikari, Tanya van de Water, Yasmin Mohammed, Anna E. Ordóñez and Soraya Seedat

International Journal of Mental Health Systems
Published: 3 April 2019

Background: Emerging researchers in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) face many barriers, including inadequacies in funding, international exposure, and mentorship. In 2012, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funded five research hubs aimed at improving the research core for evidence-based mental health interventions, enhancing research skills in global mental health, and providing capacity building (CB) opportunities for early career investigators in LMIC. In this paper emerging researchers contextualize their experiences.
Case presentation: Each of the five hubs purposively selected an emerging researcher who had experienced more than one hub-related CB opportunity and actively participated in hub-related clinical trial activities. The five ‘voices’ were invited to contribute narratives on their professional backgrounds, CB experience, challenges and successes as an emerging mental health researcher, and suggestions for future CB activities. These narratives are presented as case studies. CB activities provided broader learning opportunities for emerging researchers. Benefits included the receipt of research funding, hands-on training and mentorship, as well as exposure to networks and collaborative opportunities on a global scale. To overcome ongoing challenges of access to funding, mentoring, networking and global exposure, the emerging voices recommend making mentorship and training opportunities available to a wider range of emerging mental health researchers.
Conclusions: Investing in CB is not enough to ensure sustainability and leave a legacy unless it is accompanied by ongoing mentorship and international exposure. Financial investment in building research capacity, promotion of mentorship and supervision, and international networking are essential to yield well-prepared young investigators in LMIC as experienced by these rising stars. Governments and policymakers should prioritize educational policies to support the continuous development and international engagement of emerging researchers. This can advance strategies to deal with one of the most important and costly problems faced by healthcare systems in LMIC: the mental health treatment gap.


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