Abdallah Samy is currently an Assistant Professor and Research Scientist at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt. His research group has expertise…
The following post is written by Karli Montague-Cardoso, Executive Editor of PLOS Mental Health. Please join us in welcoming her to the journal!
I have the huge privilege of taking on the role of the inaugural Executive Editor of PLOS Mental Health, which was announced in June. I would like to use my first post at PLOS to introduce myself and speak briefly about why this journal and its communities mean so much to me.
As PLOS Mental Health begins its journey, I can feel myself getting more and more excited about what it is going to hopefully offer to the communities that it serves. For a long time, I have wanted to be in a position where I could help shape the mental health landscape but I was never really sure how I could as my professional experience initially led me down a different, though not totally unrelated, path.
Prior to joining the publishing industry towards the end of 2020, I spent 15 years in academia (yes, yes I don’t look old enough), trying out all sorts of flavours of Neuroscience – from cognitive neuroscience to neuroimmunology to developmental neurobiology. I initially started out at University College London, completing my undergraduate degree and PhD there, before moving to do several postdoc projects at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London. Whilst many people I crossed paths with were very accepting and supportive, I became acutely aware of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions – an experience that was of course not unique to me or to this particular industry. I wanted to do something to support others, raise awareness and reduce stigma but I just wasn’t brave enough and didn’t know where I could fit in to do that. It left me feeling largely unfulfilled.
Then in 2020, when the pandemic hit, like many others, I changed direction for a variety of reasons and I joined Springer Nature. I can’t say I had always dreamed of going into publishing but it was very early on into my time there that I knew I would never look back. I was lucky enough to have a variety of roles at the company, which included handling Neuroscience and Mental Health content as well as recruiting, training and engaging with Editorial Board Members. I was equally lucky to have the opportunity to be involved in many different efforts through which I could be a mental health advocate within the company. Specifically, I chaired their Wellbeing Champion employee group, co-Chaired Springer Nature Disability & Neurodiversity and was heavily involved in the company’s Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG3) Mental Health Research focus group. These activities exposed me to many amazing individuals and networks, and I finally started to realise that maybe my place was to support change through publishing. I was driven by giving a voice to the community and was able to provide a platform for a variety of mental health advocates through several front-half pieces and community posts, creating a collection and steering various symposiums centred around different mental health themes.
So, when the opportunity came up to be the Executive Editor for PLOS Mental Health I just knew I couldn’t let that go. This was a tangible opportunity to not only play a role in shaping the mental health landscape but to hopefully help to reduce stigma and isolation. Through more understanding and discussions, and giving more people a voice, we increase opportunities for connections to be made. This helps to steer progress in the direction that the community needs and I am driven by bringing lived experience, including my own, to the publishing industry. I think it is crucial that the voices of those with lived experience run through all aspects of the journal and the field in general. This is one of the reasons that I was delighted to have Charlene Sunkel and Rochelle Burgess as Editors-in-Chief for this important and timely journal as I already admired everything that they stand for and do. It is crucial to me that our Editorial Board Members are also excited by giving lived experience the voice it deserves and I am looking forward to watching this team grow in the coming months.
I feel incredibly honoured to lead PLOS Mental Health as it begins its story. The Mental Health field is a rapidly evolving one and I am committed to the journal also continuously evolving in accordance with the needs of its communities. I cannot wait to see where it gets taken!