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Cruz Earns Three Awards to Support Mental Health Work in India

July 10, 2019
School of Medicine

Christina Cruz, who developed a program to enable teachers in rural areas to recognize and respond therapeutically to children with mental illness, was elected as the recipient of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Junior Investigator Award and a Thrasher Research Fund Early Career Award for her work.

As a 2018 Global Health Scholar through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine’s Office of International Activities, Cruz created the TeaLeaF (TEAchers LEAding Frontline) Program for the Darjeeling Hills of India through the Broadleaf Health and Education Alliance. The TeaLeaF program focuses on task-shifting mental health services to local community leaders and teachers. It helps teachers learn new strategies for classroom and behavior management.

Also, the Tata Trusts, the largest and most influential philanthropic organization in India, plans to scale her intervention to Nagpur, a city of five million people, as the children’s mental health focus of their major mental health initiative, Udaan. They have named Cruz as a technical advisor to Udaan and co-advisor to the Trusts with the likes of Vikram Patel, as well as authors of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, which now governs the national mental health policy of India.

The Tata Trusts envisions rolling out Cruz’s intervention state by state over the course of years.

Expanding access to children’s mental health care is a crucial global health challenge. About 20 percent of all children suffer from a mental health condition; most will remain undiagnosed, untreated and affected lifelong. A fundamental underlying cause of this treatment gap is insufficient human resources. Innovative care models are urgently needed to address this challenge.

Read more on the School of Medicine’s website.

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