Vikram Patel, Professor of International Mental Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the Public Health Foundation of India, has been awarded the 2014 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health by the Institute of Medicine.
Professor Patel has throughout his career played a central role in the development of the field of global mental health and improved care for those with mental disorders in resource-poor countries. His pioneering epidemiological research has revealed the burden of mental disorders in low and middle income countries, and showed a strong link between mental disorders and poverty. His research also demonstrated that evidence-based treatments for mental illness can be delivered effectively in these countries by non-specialist health care workers.
Much of this work was carried out in collaboration with Sangath, a pioneering non-profit organization in India. Patel played a lead role in synthesizing evidence that has shaped the foundation of the field of global mental health and promoted its dissemination by editing key journal series and textbooks that form the basis of teaching and practice in the field. His 2003 manual Where There Is No Psychiatrist has been translated into over a dozen languages and is used by community health workers worldwide.
He is currently a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, and in recent years established the School’s Centre for Global Mental Health, in partnership with the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.
Presenting the $20,000 Sarnat Prize at the annual meeting of the Institute of Medicine in Washington on 20 October, the institute’s president Victor Dzau said: “Through his research, Vikram Patel not only brought a largely unacknowledged problem – mental health disorders in developing nations – into the view of the world’s policymakers and health care organizations, he has also identified and advanced practical solutions to help those who are suffering,”
Professor Patel said: “The prize is a recognition for the field of global mental health, a discipline which has a growing influence around the world. The academic heart of the field is in the Centre for Global Mental Health I co-founded with Martin Prince in London. With this recognition, the Centre will, under its new leadership of Ricardo Araya at the School, continue to make progress in the years ahead”.
The annual prize recognizes – without regard for professional discipline or nationality – achievements in basic science, clinical application, and public policy that lead to progress in the understanding, etiology, prevention, treatment, or cure of mental disorders, or to the promotion of mental health. As defined by the nominating criteria, the field of mental health encompasses neuroscience, psychology, social work, nursing, psychiatry, and advocacy, among other disciplines. The award is supported by an endowment created by Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat of Los Angeles.