January 3, 2022
(HOUSTON, TX) - GCSW Professor Robin Gearing has been named co-editor of an international panel of mental health experts for a special edition of the academic journal Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services entitled "Mental Health: Learning Locally to Impact Globally."
This special edition of Families in Society will feature an international scholarship lens for mental health, which is "an issue that affects individuals and families in every culture and society across the world," says Dr. Gearing. Mental health is a human issue that affects individuals and families in every culture and society across the world. While the approach, skills, and practice may vary by country or region, mental health providers—such as social workers, human service workers, peer supports, indigenous healers, and medical doctors and nurses—provide mental health assessment, services, and treatment to vulnerable and underserved populations experiencing and managing mental health conditions.
We spoke with Dr. Gearing about what this special issue will signal to the global community and why it is essential to include a diversity of voices.
Name: Professor Robin Gearing
Congratulations on being named to the editorial board of the special issue of Families in Society. Why do you believe mental health has become a more prominent and openly discussed segment of public health?
Mental health is undoubtedly getting a lot more attention, which is a very positive and healthy change. The global impact of COVID has contributed significantly to our raised awareness of mental health in a variety of cultures in society. Research conducted during COVID has found significant increases in anxiety and depression rates, higher rates of suicide attempts, and a distinct rise in substance use. Individuals who had been managing a diagnosed condition or who otherwise lived with mental health symptomology are now experiencing more dysfunction or impairment in everyday life. Concurrently, many individuals who previously had not been experiencing clinical mental health symptoms are beginning to report anxiety and depression. These developments over the past 24 months demonstrate how important our mental health is and that it should be a core component of overall healthcare and well-being. Because of the widespread symptomology, open discussion and dialogue is occurring about mental health with less stigma. However, we all know the stigma still exists, especially amongst minority communities and people of color who are far less likely to receive mental health treatment or seek help because of entrenched systemic disparities and prejudices.
Since the pandemic, we can see various countries approach public health differently given cultural values and mores. Why is it essential to incorporate a global impact focus on how we approach discussions around mental health?
Individuals across the world have managed mental health issues since we started breathing and walking upright. Part of the human condition has been learning how to better understanding and how to how to manage our illnesses and problems. It's not just a discussion around mental health. It's also a discussion around interventions, treatments, and approaches. People connect and view mental health services and integrate formal and informal practices in various ways in each community across the world.
We can all learn from one another, and from the similarities and differences across cultures, communities, and countries. Whether they're locally in the US or worldwide, every community has much to offer other communities.
What are you most looking forward to when participating on a board comprised of various scholars from Ethiopia, Mexico, and Taiwan?
When we began exploring this special issue of the journal Families in Society entitled "Mental Health: Learning Locally to Impact Globally," we recognized how globally influenced and connected we are. Also, we are seeking to promote local innovations in mental health care to a larger audience. So, many voices and areas of expertise at every stage of the publication process was essential. Our editorial team is comprised of expert international scholars from Ethiopia, Mexico, Taiwan, and the United States. This special edition marks a new beginning for Families in Society that had never attempted this approach and mainly focused on North America.
For me, my research has consistently benefited from the inclusion of diversity and inclusion. So, the idea for social work’s first research journal, established over 100 years ago, to embrace a new approach is exciting, especially with an issue focusing on a topic that impacts us all.
Every voice is important. It's essential to have as many voices as possible to represent as many different parts of our larger global society, quadrants, continents, intersectionalities, and communities. This special issue is trying to encourage and uplift the vast, dynamic, and growing community of voices that possesses expertise, experience, and solutions.
The mission of the GCSW is to achieve social justice local to global and echoes the title of this particular issue. What are some critical points to consider when raising awareness of regional mental health approaches, especially when considering how these approaches/perspectives fit into the global mental health system?
The University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) prepares diverse leaders in practice and research to address complex challenges and achieve sustainable social, racial, economic, and political justice, locally and globally, through exceptional education, innovative research, and meaningful community engagement. Discussing these realities, we recognize that it's an ongoing journey and not only a destination. This journey is one where we are constantly trying to improve and strengthen, and better ourselves, the profession, and all those it serves. The GCSW mission echoes clearly in this special issue as we seek to understand the intrinsic values shared amongst every community. The special issue is actively seeking out these voices so they can inform, interact, and hopefully spark new interest on an international and national level.
Anything else you would like us to know?
The more actively we share space with voices that have not traditionally been heard, then the better our shared knowledge and understanding. In this special issue, we will highlight evidence-informed practices that are assisting those with mental health issues, or their caregivers, or how organizations are providing this important, though often minimized, service. In addition, we recognize the importance of providing space for indigenous and culturally sanctioned approaches that have historically been overlooked or otherwise minimized in the mental health fields. To that end, both traditional-length manuscripts, and shorter practice notes/research reports are invited.
Areas of mental health interest include: Service access and utilization for underserved racial, ethnic, cultural, and stigmatized populations; Patterns of service delivery, service utilization, engagement, and treatment adherence; Strategies for addressing barriers and enhancing promoters to (formal and informal) mental health treatment and services; Interventions nationally and internationally to maintain clients in treatment and improve outcomes and recovery; Response to families’ mental health needs during a special time (e.g., the COVID-19 pandemic, a disaster, in transition, etc.); Activating local characteristics, strategies, resources to design and provide effective mental health services for families in need; Cultural considerations in accessing and/or providing mental health services to families in need in a specific context/region; Indigenous knowledge and mental health care; Mental health care across the human condition (e.g., age, orientation, religion, SES, etc.); Mental and Emotional Health as well as Health Rights and Human Rights; Personal attention Mental Health vs. Family and Community Mental Health: Contradictions of Public Policy; Psychosocial and Mental-emotional burnout of Social Work health personnel; and Ethical dilemmas when working with clients with mental health conditions.
Learn more about how to submit your paper for consideration here.