The first-ever Yale Mental Health Colloquium will bring together leading scholars in the fields of architecture, business, economics, education, law, neuroscience, psychiatry, public health, social work, and technology for a half-day conversation on the topic.
The interdisciplinary gathering, which is open to invited guests only, will take place on Saturday, March 30, 8 a.m.-12:15 p.m. in the Beinecke Room (second floor) of Evans Hall, 165 Whitney Ave.
“Convening a diverse group of experts and interested parties to discuss how we might energize new models for supporting mental health in schools, workplaces, and communities is an important and exciting undertaking,” says Amy Wrzesniewski, the Michael H. Jordan Professor of Management at the Yale School of Management (SOM), who will offer the opening remarks. “Cross-boundary conversations are an essential part of identifying where forward momentum can be had.”
SOM student Florian Kogler says he was inspired to bring together scholars from across the campus for a discussion about mental health after attending a Poynter Fellowship conversation between mental health advocate and vlogger Jonny Benjamin, This Can Happen founder and mental health campaigner Neil Laybourn, and Yale neuroscientist and psychologist Phil Corlett. He reached out to Sheril Frano, the assistant director for internal communications at SOM, who helped brainstorm about a follow-up conversation on the topic of mental health.
“For the longest time, I wanted to contribute to changing the conversation on mental health,” explains Kogler. “I believe our colloquium is a perfect avenue for us to harness the power of Yale and have an impact on a topic that affects millions of people around the world. It will be a long journey but I cannot think of a better team to take it with.”
Colloquium participants will discuss such topics as how disciplines other than their own can contribute, whether there are gaps and conflicts between disciplines that must be addressed, and areas for further research and potential partnerships, among others. The long-term goal of the colloquium, says its organizers, is “consilience — a unity of knowledge across the disciplines of mental health.”
Corlett, who will offer closing remarks at the event, believes there has never been a more important time “to turn our considerable skills and broad expertise towards the problems of serious mental illness.”
He adds: “The time has come to leverage what we know about the brain, mind, and behavior to better serve those in our society who suffer. Yale SOM faculty has proven they can influence policy, industrial innovation, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy. Partnering with them proffers exciting but tangible possibilities to address the unmet needs of those with serious mental illnesses. The impact of mental illness on wellbeing and productive societal contribution now exceeds cardiovascular illness. Its insidious reach, in terms of families impacted, extends beyond cancer, and taking the opioid crisis as a salient case, more people are dying daily in the United States than they were at the height of the AIDS crisis.”
SOM student Lindsay Dow says that an interdisciplinary conversation about mental health was important to her because it has been a “hot topic” on social media, but one that may not always go in the direction she hopes.
“While this publicity has its benefits, I worry that the discussion will remain as a platitude and become — as all things on social media — myopic, polarized, and facile,” says Dow. “My life, like most others, has been touched by mental illness in more ways than I even recognize. I’ve seen firsthand the damage done by a mental health system eager to sacrifice reality, complexity, and process for the sake of comfort and simplicity. An ever-growing corpus of mental health experts and non-experts alike believe that we can and must do better. The Yale Mental Health Colloquium was born out of the conviction that by leaning into this complexity in mental health, rather than avoiding it, we might move the field forward more holistically, and find as yet undiscovered ways to improve the lives of the billions who struggle with mental illness every day.”
Other participants in the colloquium include Dr. John Krystal, Chair of the Yale Department of Psychiatry; Shane Frederick, professor of behavior economics at Yale School of Management; Anne Dailey, a law professor at the University of Connecticut; James Mandiberg, professor at the Hunter College of Social Work; Joel Sanders, adjunct professor at the Yale School of Architecture; Maggie Zellner, executive director of The Neuropsychoanalysis Foundation; Maya Prabhu, associate professor of law and psychiatry; Michael Rowe, professor of psychiatry and co-director of the Yale Program for Recovery & Community Health; Trace Kershaw, department chair and professor of public health (social and behavioral sciences); Claire Bien, author of “Hearing Voices, Living Fully: Living with the Voices in my Head”; and Vinod Srihari, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Specialized Treatment Early in Psychosis (STEP) clinic at the Connecticut Mental Health Center, who also leads the MindMap campaign to shorten pathways to care for youth and families confronting the recent onset of a psychotic illness.