By Urvita Bhatia, MSc Global Mental Health
Having gained admission to the Global Mental Health Master’s degree at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and King’s College London, I moved to London from India in September 2014. Before moving to London I had completed my postgraduate training in Clinical Psychology in India and subsequently dipped my toes in the exciting field of global mental health by working in a project that aimed to develop a contextualized psychosocial intervention for perinatal depression in India. This experience stoked my passion for the cause of global mental health, and motivated me to pursue the Global Mental Health Master’s to further my skills and capacities. It is now seven months since I embarked on this new academic adventure, and the breadth of my experiences have deeply instilled a sense of contentment in me. On reflection, many factors have contributed to this:
1. The course is a learning haven
The structure and content of the course matches the learning needs of students who wish to work in the area of mental health research. The hallmark of the course is the unique collaboration of two institutions of excellence with differing but complementary areas of expertise. The course is jointly offered by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and King’s College London, and hence, students learn in both environments and consequently develop both a public health and clinical approach to health and illness. The course heavily invests in providing a rich academic experience, conducive to learning, which allows students to develop and achieve personal as well as professional goals in the long-term. With the course spread across three academic terms, students have an opportunity to strengthen core skills to understand, evaluate and undertake research critical to the field of global mental health.
2. The classroom whets the curious mind
The classroom environment is an exciting mix of didactic teaching by some of the world leaders in global mental health, passionate discussions critiquing core issues in the field, independent learning, and practical skills building. The course on the whole fosters a sense of scientific spirit in its students, and provides excellent opportunities for academic learning and participation in the wider network of public health research.
The single most crucial factor of shared learning environments is its people. The typical tutor in the course possesses immense knowledge and a wealth of experience that one can draw from. The most invaluable lessons have come from learning and working with tutors who are leaders in their own fields, and have worked in the real-world setting. As in any other course, the student community as a whole defines the experiences of individual students in an institute. When one is in the global mental health classroom, one will find students not only from different countries, but different backgrounds and interests, which lends much character to the course. The eclectic mix of students represents the real world setting in global mental health, where cross-setting and cross-discipline collaboration is the norm rather than an exception. As a result, one learns meta-skills that can help foster a spirit of learning and working together, and to build on each other’s strengths.
3. The course is more than a degree, it is a life experience
The future of global mental health lies in leaders who have walked the talk, as well as young people who begin by learning to talk the walk. The degree, with its structure and people, supports and strengthens early career development in the field. Apart from career development, the focus of the course resonates with students at a deeper, personal level. With every passing day in the course I have found that I am being continuously drawn and committed to contribute to efforts directed towards making mental health care more accessible and acceptable.
All of these factors coalesce and form a unique experience that is life affirming, and more importantly, motivates you to be the agent of change for tomorrow.