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Vikram Patel: a hero in the global mental health movement


 
As he was on his way to Stanford for two days of presentations and meetings last week, global mental-health advocate Vikram Patel, PhD, had a stop-over in Chicago. He was there in the midst of the Cubs' World Series battle with the Cleveland Indians, and I asked the New Delhi resident, who soon will join the faculty at Harvard, what he thought about America's baseball fanaticism. He was captivated, he told me. "Everyone crowded around TV sets in the airport bars. Baseball hats everywhere. It was amazing."

Patel joked that he would he try to introduce cricket into the sports culture of Boston after he arrives there. Apparently, he hasn't yet met Boston's diehard Red Sox fans: I warned him he'd have better chance at solving the world's mental health problems than he would at changing altering the sports DNA in Boston.

Patel's life work is solving these mental health problems. Last year, he was recognized by TIME magazine as as one of 100 most influential people in the world. And, days before before arriving at Stanford, he received the 2016 Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health, awarded annually to individuals "whose contributions have made a profound and lasting impact in advancing the understanding of mental health and improving the lives of people suffering from mental illness." He is indeed, a hero in global mental health.

I spoke to Patel for this 1:2:1 podcast and later in a conversation for the Stanford Health Policy Forum, which was co-sponsored by the Center for Innovation in Global Health. In light of all of his honors and prizes, I asked him who his heroes were. Who did he think deserved credit for altering the landscape in global mental health? He didn't name any specific names but pointed poignantly to the millions of mentally ill who have have stepped forward, out of the shadows, and spoken publicly about living with the wrath of mental illness along with its unforgiving stigma. "Those are my heroes," he quietly said.

Previously: Global mental health: Major challenges persist, Stanford Health Policy Forum speakers say
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben

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