The first International Meeting of Intercamhs took place in Portland, Oregon, in October 2003, but the seeds of the alliance were sown five years earlier.
The Center for School Mental Health Assistance (CSMHA) at the University of Maryland organises an annual conference, and in 1998 the conference began to attract people from outside the USA. At the same time, the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) held a meeting in Puerto Rico at which school mental health was a major focus. The two organisations began to talk.
Planning for an international network gathered pace at the CSMHA conferences in 1999 and 2000, and then in 2001 the emerging network gave a series of presentations on International Perspectives on School Mental Health at the IUHPE meeting in Paris. Thirty delegates from around the world also met to discuss the formal development of the network.
Three people then drafted a preliminary operating code for the network - Mark Weist, Director of CSMHA, Annette Johnson from the USA and Louise Rowling from Australia. The code was presented at the Second World Conference on Mental Health Promotion in London in 2002, where about 15 people from around the world reviewed it and provided input. A revised code was then presented at a meeting of around 50 people at the CSMHA conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2002.
The pace of development quickened in 2003. A name was chosen - the International Alliance for Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Schools, or Intercamhs. An international advisory board was set up, with members from Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Romania, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam. A logo was designed, two e-newsletters produced and a website launched. Membership began to grow, and by year's end Intercamhs had more than 250 members from 26 countries.
The inaugural International Meeting was held in Portland, Oregon, on October 22 2003, in conjunction with CSMHA's annual conference. Forty three delegates from eleven countries attended, and the major theme of the day was Promoting the Growth, Improvement, and Sustainability of School Mental Health Programs Worldwide. This theme will be reflected in a special issue of the International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, to be published in summer 2004.
Intercamhs has been built on the belief that addressing mental health issues in schools is vitally important to the wellbeing of school community members. The alliance brings together experience and expertise from all over the world with the aim of enhancing the wellbeing of children and young people. It promotes the international exchange of ideas and experience and acts as a meeting place for a wide range of educationalists, mental health and other professionals.
The Center for School Mental Health Assistance (CSMHA) has played a major role in facilitating the birth of Intercamhs, and funding for the inaugural meeting was provided by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).