Over the past 25 years, I have worked at the intersections of culture and mental health in academe and government, as a mixed methods researcher, a global public health program implementer, and as a science policy leader and funder at the National Institute of Mental Health focused on diverse, underserved populations. Working in global mental health has motivated me to find solutions to severe human resource constraints, test integrated approaches to care, and study social and cultural determinants that influence the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities in the United States and internationally. The research, capacity-building, educational and science policy initiatives my colleagues and I have led have enabled me to examine and address some of these issues directly.
I am a co-investigator on the study, Combining mHealth and nurse-delivered care to improve the outcomes of people with serious mental illness in West Africa, with researchers at the University of Ghana and the University of Washington. The project introduces evidence-based care to prayer camps in Ghana, where healers manage the treatment of people with severe mental illness. The team is testing a two-pronged intervention: regular visits by a psychiatric nurse who provides pharmacotherapy paired with the training of prayer camp staff in the use of a smartphone-delivered toolkit that provides them access to psychosocial interventions for their clientele.
Research on HIV and mental health attracted me because of its critical relevance to public health. Early work investigated the HIV prevention needs of women with severe mental illness in the US and explored the coping strategies of women with HIV and co-morbid substance use disorders in order to design appropriate interventions. HIV prevalence among women with these exposures was, and continues to be, higher than the general population. Women’s risk was often linked to coercive sex and social vulnerabilities. Of particular interest to me has been understanding the sociocultural barriers to care and to good health outcomes for people with severe mental illness, with emphasis on the social stigma attached to mental illness, and on its impact on HIV risk and prevention. With the evolution of the global HIV epidemic and the availability of effective treatment, my research and practice interests broadened to include the integration of mental health interventions and HIV services.
Over the last few years, I have increasingly focused on adolescent and youth mental health in the global context. Recent research includes the MindKind study, a program of work to understand the data governance preferences of young people engaged in smartphone-based mental health research in India, South Africa and the UK. The project emphasized co-design and partnership with youth throughout the study. A second study trained Kenyan community health volunteers to address the mental health needs of adolescents with depressive and anxiety symptoms and contributed to the development of the WHO and UNICEF Ensuring Quality in Psychological Support (EQUIP) platform for competency-based training of non-specialist health workers. With colleagues from the University of Washington and the University of Nairobi, we adapted trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy components to support adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our study, EQUIP-Nairobi, tested the competency-based training of community health workers to deliver the psychotherapy intervention to adolescents living in adversity. The majority of participants experienced improvement in symptoms, and we learned lessons on the feasibility of low-tech distance training, supervision, and delivery of mental health services in that context.
The collaborative research that I co-lead with colleagues at the University of Nairobi unites these strands of work. Our planned cluster randomized trial will test the effectiveness of a brief psychological therapy integrated into HIV care services for Kenyan adolescents living with HIV, and we will examine factors that affect the implementation of the intervention.
Key words: global mental health; HIV care; HIV and mental health integration; stigma & discrimination; urban adolescent mental health
Experiences & Accomplishments
Pamela Collins is the Bloomberg Centennial Professor and Chair of the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Through research, education, and practice, the department applies public health approaches to reduce the burden of mental disorders and associated determinants in populations around the world. Prior to this role, she was Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington (UW), where she served as executive director of the I-TECH, a global health implementing center in the Department of Global Health that partners with ministries of health to bring public health interventions to scale through a multi-country network spanning 5 continents. Dr. Collins also directed the UW Consortium for Global Mental Health and was associate director of the UW Behavioral Research Center for HIV. She retains an appointment as affiliate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington.
Dr. Collins has served the mental health field in numerous capacities. She was Associate Director for Special Populations and director of the Office for Research on Disparities & Global Mental Health and the Office of Rural Mental Health Research at the National Institute of Mental Health (USA). Her leadership led to the launch of research initiatives to extend mental health services in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as research to reduce mental health disparities among diverse racial and ethnic groups and Indigenous communities in the United States. She is currently a commissioner for the new Lancet Commission on adolescent health and wellbeing, she chairs the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on International Psychiatry and Global Health, and she co-chairs the advisory board of Connecting Climate Minds, a Wellcome Trust-funded initiative that aligns action at the intersection of climate change and mental health.
Honors & Awards
Phi Beta Kappa, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Pew Medical Fellow, Rockefeller University, New York, NY
David Rogers Health Policy Colloquium, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY
Alan J. Flisher Memorial Lecture, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
James A. Walugembe Memorial Lecture, Peter C. Alderman and African Mental Health Foundation Regional Psychotrauma Conference, Nairobi, Kenya
Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series, National Institutes of Health
Aspen Lecture, Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight Health, Aspen, CO
Invited Speaker, Skoll World Forum, Said Business School, University of Oxford, UK
Harry E. Ford, III, MD, Grand Rounds Endowed Lecture in Psychiatry for the Care of Underserved Populations, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Mental Health (2015-2016)
Advisor for Harpo Productions, The Me You Can't See (Apple TV)
John Hadley Award for outstanding undergraduate research, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
American Psychiatric Association/SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services Minority Fellowship
American College of Psychiatrists Laughlin Fellowship for Outstanding Psychiatric Residents
Echoing Green Foundation Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurs
Robert Wood Johnson Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program Fellow
New York State Office of Mental Health Policy Scholar
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's Award for accomplishments in global mental health and mental health disparities research
NIH Merit Award for contributions to scientific workforce diversity
Meritorious Honor Award for concrete contributions to improving human health in the Arctic during the US Arctic Council Chairmanship, Department of State, USA
NIMH Director’s Award for outstanding leadership in promoting mental health care and research globally
NIMH Director’s Award for outstanding collaborative efforts on behalf of suicide prevention in Arctic indigenous communities through the RISING SUN initiative
Jeanne Spurlock Minority Fellowship Achievement Award, American Psychiatric Association
These selections represent the major domains of my research and practice activities of the past 15 years. Please visit my PubMed link to view my comprehensive bibliography.
Lee-Tauler SY, Eun J, Corbett D, Collins PY. A systematic review of interventions to improve access to mental health care among racial/ethnic minorities, Psychiatric Services, 2018 Jun 1; 69 (6): 628-647
Collins PY, Holman A, Freeman M, Patel V. What is the relevance of mental health to HIV/AIDS care and treatment programs in developing countries? A systematic review. AIDS. 2006, 20(12):1571-1582.
Collins PY, von Unger H, Armbrister A. Church ladies, good girls, and locas: Stigma and the intersection of ethnicity, gender, mental illness, and sexuality. Social Science & Medicine, 2008, 67: 389-397.
Collins PY, Patel V, Joestl SS, March D, Insel TR, Daar AS et al; Grand challenges in global mental health. Nature, 2011, 475 (7354): 27-30, doi: 10.1038/475027a.
Collins PY. What is global mental health? World Psychiatry, 2020 Oct;19(3):265-266. doi: 10.1002/wps.20728. PMID: 32931115; PMCID: PMC7491634
Kemp CG, Mensa-Kwao A, Concepcion T, Hughsam M, Queen E, Sinha M, Collins PY. COVID-19, the COVID-19 response, and racial injustice: Associations with depressive and anxiety symptoms among US adults from April 2020 to March 2021. SSM Ment Health. 2023 Dec;3:100214. doi: 10.1016/j.ssmmh.2023.100214. Epub 2023 Apr 23. PubMed PMID: 37124707; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC10122769.