• 10 November 2021

    GCPH Seminar Series 18: Lecture 2 - Dr Gary Belkin


    The social crisis within the climate crisis

    Dr Gary Belkin MD, PhD, MPH

    Founder and President, Billion Minds Institute,
    Visiting Scientist, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, New York

    A psychiatrist who approaches mental health as a building block of social policy and progress, Gary recently founded Billion Minds as a non-profit policy and “think-action tank.” The intention of Billion Minds is to link mental health to problems of great scale, specifically to the climate crisis, and to safeguarding sustainable societies through a humane social climate. 

    In this seminar, Dr Belkin explored what climate change means for population mental health, the need to redesign our mental health system, what a ‘next system’ looks like, and what we need to do get there. He showed that as the effects of environmental and climate change grow in severity, reach, frequency and mental health and social impact, so will the demands on an already over-burdened mental health system. He argued that the ‘social climate’ – emotional resilience, social ties, collective efficacy – requires consideration in the face of climate challenges to create a mental health ecosystem that can not only meet overwhelming prevention needs and illness care, but also help anchor scaled civic and collective action to do much of the work of adapting to and mitigating the climate and environmental change itself.

    Gary is the former Executive Deputy Commissioner in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene where he led the Division of Mental Hygiene and its development and implementation of the innovative NYC-wide public mental health initiative, ThriveNYC. Before joining city government, he was Medical Director for Behavioral Health across the Health and Hospitals Corporation of the City of New York. As Director of the NYU Program in Global Mental Health, Gary partnered with other groups globally to test and scale community-led models of mental health promotion and access in less resourced countries that are now widely used.

    A graduate of Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, where he also earned his undergraduate degree, Gary earned his MPH at Harvard School of Public Health and a doctorate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University.

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