Global Health Working Group Webinar Series: Mental Health Among Vulnerable Population in the Context of COVID-19

Mental health is a major part of health and well-being but we know that mental health issues have risen dramatically in the past two years. The pandemic has exacerbated challenges for many populations who were already at heightened risk of negative health outcomes. The promotion of mental health and protection of vulnerable populations should be recognized as a public health priority. In this webinar, five experts from Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, and Indonesia will discuss COVID-19’s impact on vulnerable populations such as migrants, adolescents, and people with disabilities.

Date & Time

June 22 from 6-7:30pm (PDT)/June 23 from 9am-10:30am (UTC+8)


  • Shaohua Hu, Zhejiang University
  • Jill Murphy, The University of British Columbia
  • Benny Prawira, Into the Light
  • Jane Fisher, Monash University


  • Mellissa Withers, University of Southern California
  • Maosheng Ran, The University of Hong Kong
Shaohua Hu
Director of Psychiatry Department at School of Medicine, Zhejiang University

Shaohua Hu is Director of Psychiatry Department, First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine. He graduated from Zhejiang University School of Medicine and finished clinical training program in First Affiliated Hospital, ZJUSM. As research visitor, he studied in Psychiatry Department, Columbia University in 2012. He has published more than 120 papers in high-impact journals, including Lancet Psychiatry, Science Advances, Advanced Sci, Cell Discov, JAMA Netw Open, Clin Transl Med. His research focuses on microbiome-brain axis and neruoimmune mechanisms of bipolar disorder. He is the member of Lancet Psychiatry Editor Board Development Programme, editor of BMC psychiatry, J Psychiatr Res, Neurosci Bull, Front Neurosci, and the guest editor of Frontier in Psychiatry, Pharmaceuticals. He is referees of following journals: Lancet Psychiatry, Lancet Reg Health West Pac, Cereb Cortex, Acta Psychiatr Scand, Bipolar Disorder, Neuroimage, J Affect Disord.

Jill Murphy
Research Associate in the Department of Psychiatry, The University of British Columbia

Jill Murphy is a Research Associate in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada and is the Executive Director of the APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health ( Her research expertise is in global mental health with a focus on integrating evidence-based mental health care into primary care and community-based settings, workplace mental health, equitable access to digital mental health care, factors influencing the implementation and scale-up of mental health programs in low- and middle-income countries, and equitable stakeholder engagement in global mental health research. Her work primarily focuses on the Asia Pacific region, and she is currently a co-investigator on studies in China and Vietnam. She is leading a study, funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research on factors influencing equitable access to digital and tele-mental health care by at-risk groups in the Asia Pacific in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is also a co-lead on the UBC Research for Mental Health Equity in the Asia Pacific-Digital (REMAP-D) research cluster.

Benny Prawira
Social Health Psychologist, Into The Light

Benny Prawira is a social health psychologist and global mental health advocate. He has been working on the field of community based mental health advocacy and suicide prevention, youth and minority mental health in Indonesia since 2013. Besides his work with his community, Into The Light Indonesia, he also serves as South East Regional Lead in Global Mental Health Peer Network. Throughout his career, he has various experiences as a lived experience expert and advisory board member in various international organizations for mental health and suicide prevention research. He was selected as a fellow in Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity in Southeast Asia (2022) & Ashoka Special Relationship (2021). His research interests include social determinants of mental health, stigma & risk of suicide and common mental disorders among youth and marginalized communities. Within his works, he emphasizes the role of lived experience involvement especially from vulnerable populations. Recently, he is also engaged in mental health promotion efforts by introducing Mindful Self Compassion and Compassionate Mind Training to Indonesia, as the first teacher-in-training in the country.

Jane Fisher
Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University

Jane Fisher, an academic Clinical and Health Psychologist is Finkel Professor of Global Health in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, Melbourne Australia. She is Co-Director of the Division of Planetary Health and leads the multidisciplinary Global and Women’s Health research group of academics, research higher degree students and professional staff who undertake research in Australia and the Indo-Pacific region. Jane has longstanding interests in the social determinants, of mental health and wellbeing across the life course and of how these can be addressed in public health approaches to mental health promotion and prevention of mental health problems.


In April 2020 she led the first national population-based survey of mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. In July-August the group led a second similarly designed survey which enabled them to compare the psychological consequences of restrictions of different severity in different Australian states.


Jane Fisher was appointed Officer in the Order of Australia in the January 2019 Australia Day Honours for her contributions to mental health, women and the community.

Mellissa Withers (Moderator)
Associate Professor at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California
Mellissa Withers, PhD, MHSis Associate Professor at the Keck School of Medicine in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences. She is based at the University of Southern California Institute on Inequalities in Global Health. She is director of the Online MPH Program. Dr Withers is also Director of the Global Health Program of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, a non-profit network of 55 universities. She received a PhD from the Department of Community Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health with a minor in cultural anthropology. She also holds a Master’s in International Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a BA in international development from UC Berkeley. Her research interests lie in community participatory research, mental health, gender-based violence, immigrant health, and global sexual and reproductive health. Dr Withers is the editor of two books: Global Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health Across the Lifecourse, and Global Health Leadership: Case Studies from the Asia-Pacific (in press).
Maosheng Ran (Moderator)
Associate Professor at Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong

Maosheng Ran has medical degrees (B.Med., M.Med.) from West China University of Medical Sciences and PhD (Mental Health) from the University of Hong Kong (HKU). He was associate professor at Department of Psychiatry, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, and a full professor (Public Health) at University of Guam. Currently he is an associate professor at Department of Social Work and Social Administration, HKU; Visiting Professor, School of Social Development and Public Policy, Fudan University, China; Chair, Academic Committee, Institute of Mental Health, Yangtze University, China; Founder and Principal Investigator of Chengdu Mental Health Project; Chair, Culture, Stigma and Discrimination, and Co-Chair, Cultural Psychiatry and the COVID-19 Virus Pandemic, World Association of Cultural Psychiatry; and Member of the Crisis Intervention Committee, China Mental Health Association. His research interests include social development and mental health, transcultural psychiatry, community mental health, psychosocial intervention, stigma of mental illness, psychiatric epidemiology, disaster events and mental health, and suicide. He has received numerous research grants from the WHO, National Institutes of Health (USA), National Institute of Mental Health, General Research Fund (HK), Public Policy Research Funding Scheme (HK), etc. He has published over 170 academic papers and 8 books/chapters, and won many academic awards.


Dr. Mellissa Withers at [email protected].