February 16, 2021
By Eoin Killackey
I hope that wherever you are, 2021 has started well for you, and that as the year progresses and vaccines are developed and distributed, we might begin to be able to live with fewer restrictions. Over the last 12 months a number of issues have come to the fore around the world: our interdependence as a human community, the need to address systemic racism and ensuing racial injustices, the climate crisis, and the fragility of seemingly strong systems of government, among others. As we arrive at a longer-term accommodation with COVID-19, I hope meaningful progress is made in addressing these. And it is important to IEPA and our mission that they are addressed, not only because it is innately right that they should be, but because these issues are involved in the development and onset of mental ill health.
We need to continue our commitment to, and passion for, advocacy, research and implementation around early intervention and prevention of mental ill health more than ever. A lot has been written in popular media and in the academic literature about the mental health burden that will follow in the wake of the pandemic. In many places this is already being seen in increased referrals to mental health services and higher levels of community distress. In this environment an early intervention focus is imperative to respond quickly, provide evidence-based interventions for symptoms and support for personal, social, functional and societal recovery. Wherever you are and whatever role you play in early intervention, and irrespective of whether your experience of mental ill-health is lived, loved, learned or some combination of them, your contribution to advancing this cause is important.
As I start this journey as IEPA President I want to again acknowledge the hard work and leadership of our outgoing President Lucia Valmaggia over the last two years. Over that time IEPA has been confronted with unprecedented challenges, but Lucia has led us to a very good position to survive and grow. I am personally very grateful for the example she has set for me in this role. I also want to recognise the contributions to IEPA of Past President Peter Jones, Vice-President for Asia Young Chul Chung and Ordinary Member Kelly Allott who have all recently stepped down from the IEPA Board. Organisations such as IEPA could not function without those who step up to help direct and lead them through these and other roles. To that end too, I want to warmly welcome to the IEPA board Juliana Onwumere and Kate Hardy as Ordinary Members, Sung-Wan Kim as Vice President – Asia, and Alison Yung as President-elect. I look forward to the work of this board over the next two years with confidence that it has the talent and energy to continue to advance the agenda of early intervention research and practice around the world.
Amidst the challenges of the moment I would like to highlight some bright spots. One of these is the recent funding by the Greek government for early intervention services. Congratulations to all those who have advocated and worked towards this. Change of this scale does not come easy and I wish you good luck as new services are designed and implemented. It is also positive that there has been so much public discussion and consideration of the mental health impacts of the pandemic. I think this reflects a shift in the stigma and discrimination around mental illness – at least in the English language media that I read. Finally, even though it is not about early intervention in mental health the scientific achievement of developing vaccines in such a short time highlights the beneficial impact of collaboration, and what can be achieved if sufficient focus is given to an issue.
Again, whatever you do in relation to early intervention in mental health, I wish you well with it in 2021. If there is some way that IEPA can help you, please feel free to reach out.
President, IEPA Early Intervention in Mental Health