2024 Annual Meeting: New York City, NY
Full information can be found HERE

Mental Health Disparities: Social-structural, Cultural, Psychological, and Biological Mechanisms

Research on psychopathology increasingly demands an integration of data across all levels of analysis – social-structural, cultural, psychological, and biological – on the mechanisms of disparities in the onset and perpetuation of mental disorders that vary across social groups, including by socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, sex/gender, and sexual orientation.  Disparities indicates preventable and unjust differences in mental health that adversely affect oppressed and socially disadvantaged populations.  Social structure describes the hierarchical patterning of society that distributes vulnerability and coping resources differentially across individuals and social groups, such as access to education or employment and the impact of discriminatory organizational practices.  Culture refers to the collective processes of meaning-making and social practice which individuals recreate in their own lives and that contribute to health and disease.  Psychology attends to the processes of the human mind that underlie cognition, behavior, volition, and other mental and behavioral phenomena.  Biology encompasses the embodied mechanisms that provide the material substrate of all human activity, including the mechanisms through which societal, cultural, and psychological determinants exert their effects.  The 2024 APPA Annual Meeting will review the contribution of each of these determinants to mental health disparities and help advance their integration into a coherent paradigm at the cutting-edge of current thought, with direct impact on the lives of affected individuals and communities.

Roberto Lewis-Fernández, MD
Columbia/NYS Psychiatric Institute
New York, NY

2025 Annual Meeting

Social Determinants of Psychopathology: Bridging Etiologic Research and Implementation Science to Improve the Lives of Patients and Populations

The social causes of psychopathology have been recognized nearly as long as psychopathology itself. Advances in research on the social determinants of psychopathology have enabled us to understand the causal role of social factors on mental health. For nearly all aspects of the mechanistic underpinnings of psychopathology, we are enjoying a greater understanding of how social factors influence mental health. Social factors become embodied through genomic processes, become encoded in the developing brain, and have enduring influences on neurocognitive development in childhood and cognitive decline later in life. Social factors moderate treatment response and treatment outcomes for many psychiatric conditions. And social factors fundamentally shape the ability to seek and receive mental health care. Unfortunately, the tremendous gains in understanding how social factors cause and sustain psychiatric illness have not yet led to comparable gains in preventing psychiatric illness and in reducing disparities in psychiatric illness; nor have they led to comparable gains in the effectiveness of psychiatric care. I propose to organize an APPA conference that would bring together leading scholars on the social determinants of psychopathology across mental health’s disciplines – epidemiology, anthropology, sociology, genomics, neuroscience, biostatistics, psychiatry, and health policy – to present on our current understanding of how social factors cause mental illness, and what stands in the way of this understanding being fully utilized to improve the lives of patients and populations.

Stephen E. Gilman, ScD
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Bethesda, MD

2026 Annual Meeting

The fruits of the “affect revolution” in conceptualizing, understanding, and intervening in psychopathology

The “affect revolution” during the past several decades had focused substantial research efforts on the roles of the experience and regulation of emotion and mood in psychological adjustment and psychopathology. The experience and regulation of affect has now been studied across the entire life-span and in lab and daily-life settings; various biomarkers have been examined; emotion regulation that goes awry has been conceptualized as a transdiagnostic process; dysregulated affect also has been proposed as a risk factor for various psychopathologies and psychiatric disorders; and the vast and continuously expanding literature on emotion-focused interventions speaks to the timeliness of these topics. The 2026 APPA meeting will address the question as to what has been learned as the consequence of the “affect revolution.” What is the current status of affect in our conceptualization of human behavior? Has the research across the past several decades yielded novel findings about the relationship of affect experience and psychopathology? Have the findings advanced our understanding of the course and outcomes of major psychiatric disorders like depression, schizophrenia, or substance-use related conditions? And what is the future of affect-focused research?
Maria Kovacs, PhD
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry