International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) 

April 12, 2013

As I mentioned, I have attended two noteworthy events recently. Last week, I shared with you about attending the MHCA event. This week, I will be talking about how I recently attended the seventh meeting of the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) in Auckland New Zealand. IIMHL was created in 2003 primarily through the efforts of MHCA. Several of the members of MHCA had international contacts that they believe could benefit through an exchange of ideas at international levels. It was envisioned to be something like an international version of MHCA but it is grown beyond that. Member countries currently include Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, and most recently Sweden.

nitially the meetings were set up as exchanges between chief executives of various countries. This worked for a while but for variety of reasons, the exchanges have evolved into more focused training sessions on specific topics. Shortly after its inception, it became clear that there was a need for a sister organization that would deal with those serving people with developmental disabilities. The International Initiative for Disability Leadership (IIDL) was born. These two organizations now meet in parallel approximately every 18 months and the meetings rotate by continent. The next meeting will occur in England and the one following that will be in North America.

When the idea for IIMHL was first presented to us, I was initially skeptical about the relevance of what a chief executive was doing in England to what I was doing running a mental health Center in Bloomington Indiana. After my first exchange, it became clear that we are all trying to solve the same problems but we come at them from different perspectives. I also learned that I had cultural blinders on that prevented me from thinking “outside the box”. Getting exposed to another culture that started with different assumptions about the way care should be delivered was enlightening and exhilarating. I was also surprised by some of the things I saw in other countries.

For example, in England, the National Health Service (NHS) runs all of healthcare in the country. As a single-payer system, I assumed that marketing would not be very important. I was surprised and delighted to see my exchange partner spending a lot of time and resources on marketing and customer service related issues for their constituents. There were other differences. England and Australia are further ahead than the US in the use of clinical social media and E-therapies such as Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CC BT).

New Zealand is just beginning to think about the topic of clinical productivity while that has been an important part of our delivery system for long time. The US is further ahead in the adoption and use of electronic health records than other countries. Nonetheless, the similarities outweigh the differences and the communication that occurs across countries helps us all.