Photo: Victor Pereira-Sanchez, M.D., Sanya Virani, M.D. M.P.H.

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We are all now living in a world of long-distance collaboration, and almost all of it has unfolded online. The impetus for this change, of course, is COVID-19, which has also brought many public health challenges and emphasized existing ones, especially the issue of access to services.

All of a sudden, telepsychiatry is in the limelight. Very quickly, we have also seen how disorganization within existing systems has highlighted the mismatch in supply versus demand for psychiatrists, differences in the pace and receptivity of generations toward using technology, and disparities in rates of reimbursement for virtual versus in-person appointments.

At the crux of it all, however, is the question of interconnectedness, including how to expand research networks across different cultures and countries. Technology has made the world a smaller place than it has ever been.

Global challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic require solutions that are widely applicable across different scenarios and environments. Many obvious roadblocks exist in the form of conflicting personal interests, vastly differing health care systems, and limited scope for information sharing.

Our current crisis, however, also carries with it opportunities for growth and networking. To take advantage of these opportunities, a group of early career psychiatrists (ECPs) connected through the World Psychiatric Association created a research group this past March and are now collaborating with one another to reflect and write about the mental health impact of COVID-19 in various countries and propose viable solutions.

Initial publications by the group and its strong presence on social media have attracted more attention, and the membership has expanded. In time, a larger and more diverse research group called Think Tank was established. It comprises more than 60 ECPs from 30 countries across six continents.

As members of Think Tank, we find this network particularly useful for assembling international collaborations and aligning research interests, while maintaining a visible global presence.

Over the past eight months, members of Think Tank have written 10 publications in various formats, including but not limited to letters to the editor, perspectives, reviews, and original research articles in prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journals. Ten more research projects are under way and in different stages of development, ranging from proposal writing and data collection to submitting manuscripts. The collective goal of these activities is not only to provide international perspectives on global mental health, but also to disseminate information about the impact of the pandemic in different countries.

More importantly, Think Tank seeks to draw attention to the deplorable health services in low- and middle-income countries and offers colleagues support in the form of toolkits, data resources, and other ideas that can be replicated in their respective environments.

The first publication that came from this group is titled “Mental Health Interventions During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Conceptual Framework by Early Career Psychiatrists” and was published in June. It provided ideas to tackle the psychopathological effects of the pandemic from a public health perspective. This widely cited paper has been a source of inspiration for efforts made by health care professionals to enact policy changes in countries like Kenya and Argentina.

The scope of research is also starting to diversify as more members are working on projects to study the effects of systemic racism among children of racial and ethnic minorities across countries. These projects have been designed to meet the objective of creating an organized response to a chronic problem that is gaining deserved recognition in the wake of the most recent tragedies in the United States.

As Think Tank keeps growing, its members are rapidly gaining experience and becoming more productive and effective. Many of our members can testify to the satisfaction that comes from global collaboration, across cultures and countries, to take on difficult problems in a challenging environment of a worldwide pandemic. ■

Individuals interested in learning more about Think Tank can communicate with members via the Think Tank Twitter account.

A YouTube series titled “Our Science in a Nutshell” provides short videos summarizing the findings of papers from Think Tank over the past eight months. It can be accessed here.

“Mental Health Interventions During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Conceptual Framework by Early Career Psychiatrists” is posted here.

Victor Pereira-Sanchez, M.D., is a Fundacion Alicia Koplowitz Fellow in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the founder of the World Network of Psychiatric Trainees.

Sanya Virani, M.D. M.P.H., is a fellow in addiction psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and the resident-fellow member (RFM) trustee-elect on APA’s Board of Trustees. They are both members of Think Tank.

Early Career Psychiatrists Form Global Collaboration to Take on Pandemic | Psychiatric News

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