WHO Collaborating Centre for Capacity Building and Training in Global Mental Health at Columbia University

About The Program

Columbia University’s World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Capacity Building and Training in Global Mental Health (Columbia WHO CC), formerly the Columbia Global Mental Health Program, is based in Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Kathleen M. Pike serves as the Director of the Columbia WHO Collaborating Centre.

The Columbia WHO CC supports WHO’s mission to reduce the burden associated with mental health and substance use disorders and promote mental health worldwide through the following ways:

  1. To support WHO in advancing its research aimed at enhancing the identification, classification and treatment of mental disorders worldwide by providing scientific and technical support for research development, data infrastructure, and dissemination of research findings.
  2. At the request of WHO, develop training resources and materials on prevention, identification, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health and behavioural disorders across a range of settings and contexts.

Staff at the Columbia WHO CC and its affiliates deliver postgraduate educational programs that prepare clinicians and researchers to advance the field of global mental health, develop training programs that build capacity for research and clinical care in low- and middle-income countries, conduct basic and applied research with global relevance, advance community awareness and understanding of mental illness, and advocate for human rights of people with mental illness.



ICD-11 Development, Training, and Implementation

The Columbia WHO CC has been a leader in advancing the development and implementation of the Mental, Behavioural or Neurodevelopmental Disorders chapter of the 11th edition of the International Classification of Disease (ICD-11). Dr. Geoffrey Reed leads the activities related to ICD-11 development, implementation, and training, working with Dr. Kathleen Pike and Dr. Tahilia Rebello. Other members of the global mental health community at Columbia serve as research collaborators along with a network of clinical researchers and institutions from around the globe.

Background and Research Strategies

A clinically useful and culturally informed system of diagnosis is essential to advance mental health globally. Without a common lexicon, stakeholders cannot accurately describe clinical disorders, document effective interventions, or report public health data. During the development of the ICD-11, the Columbia WHO CC collaborated in the design and implementation of global field studies to test and evaluate the clinical utility, reliability, validity, and global applicability of the ICD-11 Clinical Descriptions and Diagnostic Requirements (CDDR) for Mental, Behavioural or Neurodevelopmental Disorders. The Columbia WHO CC also served as the Data Coordinating Center for the ICD-11 field studies.

Over the course of a decade, field studies were conducted through the Global Clinical Practice Network (GCPN), an online network of more than 16,000 mental health practitioners representing more than 160 countries that is hosted by the Columbia WHO CC. GCPN members participated in field studies to assess the accuracy, consistency, and clinical utility of ICD-11 diagnostic guidelines. Each study was conducted in at least three and as many as six languages. As a result of this collaboration, GCPN has grown to become the largest, most international, multilingual, and multidisciplinary practice-based research network ever established.

Clinic-based studies were conducted through the network of collaborating International Field Study Centers (IFSC) appointed by WHO. Located in 14 countries around the world, representing all WHO global regions, the IFSCs participated in field studies to evaluate the ICD-11 with real patients in the types of clinical settings in which the diagnostic requirements are intended to be applied. All IFSC studies were conducted in the local language of that country, in a wide range of cultural contexts.

ICD-11 Trainings

After a decade-long scientifically rigorous development process, the ICD-11 was approved by the World Health Assembly in May 2019 and went into effect on January 1, 2022.

With the release of the ICD-11, including the Clinical Descriptions and Diagnostic Requirements (CDDR) for Mental, Behavioural and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, mental health professionals must become familiar with changes introduced in the diagnostic system. The Columbia WHO CC has been active in the development of mechanisms for disseminating information about the key changes and how to implement them in clinical practice in an effective, clear, and widespread manner.

More specifically, the Columbia WHO CC is leading the development of a systematic web-based online training program aimed at providing clinicians with the knowledge and competencies required to effectively implement the ICD-11. Training units are currently being piloted and refined based on feedback from members of WHO’s Global Clinical Practice Network. Once finalized, the online training course will be made available to clinicians around the world.

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental Health Treatment and Mental Health Professionals

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Columbia WHO CC initiated an additional large-scale research study and engaged with the Global Clinical Practice Network to examine the long-term impacts of the global public health emergency on mental health professionals worldwide. With a grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the team is conducting three waves of global data collection in six languages with a focus on the impact of the pandemic on the well-being of mental health professionals, as well as the impact on mental health treatment delivery. By identifying the nuanced changes in mental health services and practitioner wellbeing during the pandemic, this research will inform the development of future infrastructure and interventions that can more appropriately support mental health professionals and individuals receiving mental health care.