Written by Benedict Weobong
It lasted just one day, but as I left the MARCH retreat at the Wellcome Trust on the 11th May 2016 I felt an almost tangible sense of confidence and hope. Global mental health has found a dependable partner in a project that seeks to re-strategize in order to defeat a common enemy.
I am grateful to the Alumni Travel scholarship for sponsoring my trip from my current base in Goa, India to attend this meeting. MARCH’s intention to break silos and build bridges is a fantastic move. Visionary leadership and clear sense of purpose proved how much could be achieved in a single day. The meeting encouraged honest discussions and elicited firm conclusions on the way forward.
There was a unanimous chorus to reach out to other centres and research groups to woo them to join the march for MARCH, and to learn about other on-going studies with potential for collaboration. While both ideas are great, I found myself leaning towards the second simply because it is less complicated and more feasible.
Centres in the School are conducting substantial research and collaboration would offer two main purposes; an improved and quicker scientific understanding of disease conditions and explanatory pathways, and added value to research that is cost-saving.
Part of this has been demonstrated through my own work in Ghana where I linked up with a large maternal and child health programme and introduced mental health assessments. As I argued in my short correspondence about this work, by attempting a stand-alone project I would have struggled to secure funding.
Collaboration almost appears as common sense, and I’ve always wondered why not much has been achieved despite the strong push for recognition of the missing ‘m’ in maternal and child health programmes. Clearly, common sense suggests that the mother’s poor mental state should be tackled head on before programme/policy makers, and even spouses, can expect them to perform magic and ensure the child survives, thrives, and transforms!
MARCH comes to the rescue here by offering the necessary leadership for healthy collaborations and cross-fertilisation of research ideas, as well as leading the crusade that features mental health and well-being for mothers across all initiatives that hope to improve child and adolescent health outcomes.
I can confidently state this is a move that would draw support from the Centre for Global Mental Health. Bringing these great centres together (and others, pardon my bias!) should guarantee some really ‘cool’ mutual rewards, benefits and unstoppable possibilities. Mental health has lost the ‘putting the icing on the cake’ tag and, from copious evidence generated in the last 10 years (thanks to the Lancet series on global mental health and other advocacy initiatives), become a core ingredient in the cake!
We need to come together to fight a common enemy, we need to break silos, build bridges and work together to create actions not words.
 Weobong, B.K.B., Contribution of the Depression in ObaapaVitA and Newhints (DON) Population-based Cohort Study towards Perinatal Depression Epidemiology: the Ghana Model. Depress Anxiety, 2015.
 Rahman, A., et al., The neglected ‘m’ in MCH programmes–why mental health of mothers is important for child nutrition. Trop Med Int Health, 2008. 13(4): p. 579-83.
Image: DFID: UK Department for International Development (accessed via Flickr for Creative Commons)