Welcome to CHHD and

Mental Health International

A project of the Center for Health and Human Development


In Memory of Jose Luis Castro    ♥

Our outstanding, welcoming, friendly, always-present family caregiver and leader in El Salvador

Friend, we will miss you. Thank you for sharing your life and time and love so deeply with us….

Jose Luis was hit by a vehicle on the streets of San Salvador on 11/17/14.  Que Dios sea contigo y tu familia. Adios amigo.

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At the end of our winter fundraiser, we have raised $4719 and have received an in kind donation of a videographer for the next trip to El Salvador! From all of us at CHHD-MHI we just want to say THANK YOU!

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Our Work this Year

Mental Health International, a project of the Center for Health and Human Development, helps grassroots mental health programs in Central America. We have had an unbelievably successful year in 2014. With your help we can continue and expand this success into 2015.

As we transition into the new year, we at CHHD-MHI want to take a moment to thank all of our supporters for their generosity and attention. Thank You! Without your support, our work would not be possible. We also wanted to take a moment to reaffirm our goals for 2015. This year we plan on:

  • Regional Network for Mental Health

    Regional Network for Mental Health

    Expanding mental health services to low income areas that are in greater need of free services. Many rural areas in Central America receive neither support not attention from governments based in capital cities. We plan on increasing programs to rural areas to incorporate the needs of those communities into our regional network and give them the help they deserve.

  • Holding our first ever regional networking and leadership conference. This is a large step for CHHD-MHI and our partners in Central America as this conference is for the empowerment of people with mental illness and their family caregivers to advocate in their own countries for improved mental health treatment.
  • Cultivating and acting on collaborations with government officials. Ministries of health, government officials, and academics will be crucial to our first collaborative effort in mental health research. This research will focus on imbuing practice with proven interventions and provide useful information to governmental decision makers.
  • Implementing new evaluation techniques to evaluate the mental health of our program users. Mental health is very well possible regardless of mental disorders. Our goal is to encourage our users to understand that a healthy mentality is key to well being and by incorporating evaluation techniques we will find which program aspects are best in this respect.

1.Banner translated: Regional Network of Mental Health  Families united for mental health and rights awareness.   2. ???????????????????????????????  3.IMG_0497

1. Banner translated: Regional Network of Mental Health Families united for mental health and rights empowerment.
2. Program participant proudly displaying a new string art project. The art therapy program is crucial to helping empower and raise the confidence in users. (pictured under our work this year)
3. The staff and volunteer leadership team for ACISAM, our flagship partners in El Salvador.

In 2014 we:

  • Deepened ties with the National Psychiatric Hospital and the Office of Mental Health Policy, involving these government agencies in a “Basic Needs Alliance.”
  • Helped kick off a new program in Panama on October 25th attended by over 100 people passionate about mental health in Panama– local psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists, the Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization, and groups of people with mental illness and their families. Here is a link to the program guide of the launching. Click here for the original spanish program guide.
  • We began collaborations, in El Salvador, with researchers from universities, the Salvadoran National Institute of Health, and the El Salvador office of the Pan American Health Organization
  • Expanded family groups to more Salvadoran communities and received a four- year grant from the Inter-American Foundation (IAF) to support our efforts at a regional level in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Your support allows us to obtain large funds that go into program services and support. In fact, during the previous 12 months, for every dollar contributed by individual donors, we we were able to leverage an additional $8.26 in grant funding. The end result? People with mental disorders in low resource countries who get access to services, support and education, including for their family members.

This coming year your donation will be used to:

  • Support travel and in-country costs in the four countries in which we work (El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica). This will help provide support to our grassroots organization. Funds will also be used to convene a first-of-its-kind regional networking and leadership conference.
  • Pay for costs associated with grant writing. Most of our funding comes from foundation grant sources for programs in Central America. However, to obtain such funds can take years of work. We must pay staff, office rent and supplies, travel, and other costs that are often not covered by indirects from grants.
  • Increase the effectiveness of the regional program through quality evaluation of our programs. We believe in using and promoting evidence based programs and building capacity for quality mental health services from the local community on up. Evaluation and research are key to achieving these goals.
  • Strengthen the user and family organizations in several countries by filling the funding gaps for organizational development of new programs. Because our work is multifaceted (Mental health services, evaluation, capacity building, and research development) administrative and fundraising costs are ongoing. Grants rarely cover this kind of work. Donors can.

Consider becoming a sustaining donor! When you donate on paypal check the box besides “make this recurring, ‘monthly’”.  By donating a small amount each month, your annual donation can be quite large:  $50/month becomes $600 in a year! And we can count on your regular donation which helps us with our financial planning.  


Gallery of MHI Work

Click on the link to view an interactive map of User and Family Groups in Central and South America. Included in the interactive map are global organizations that provide the same services. You will find information on their location, services, and how best to contact them.

User and Family Programs

We provide capacity, logistical, and financial support to grassroots NGOs dealing with mental health. User and Family Groups are an integral program component of these NGOs. User and Family groups are safe environments for either people suffering from mental illness (users) or their family/caregivers. These groups are multifaceted and include open support groups, art therapy, income generation, and best-practice workshops.

4.5.hammocks for sale  6. visita a casa de integrante grupo arte



4. Two new participants drawing in the art therapy program, Olvidio and Boanerge. (pictured under our work this year)
5. Pedro making a hammock to sell at our program offices. He learned this skill as a patient in the psychiatric hospital in El Salvador but now actually gets paid by selling them through our income generation program.
6. Program participants visit the house of a user who has missed recent sessions. Users realize the importance of continually attending the program.
7. One of the weekly “Family Education, Support and Empowerment Program” (FESEP) classes, Sept. 2014.


Global mental health is a serious issue that must be given more attention. MHI/CHHD collaborates with other organizations to provide best practice strategies and techniques for dealing with global mental illness. This collaboration does not end with other NGOs, we strive to include governmental organizations, like ministries of health, in order to share resources and provide the best care across all sectors. We are currently engaged in connecting a regional network of User and Family Groups in order to hold conferences, disseminate the latest in mental health research, and partner in reducing mental health stigma.

8.ACISAM staff and associates like Sam attending a workshop on the current political and economic reality in el Salvador 9.inter-institutional council for mental health research10.photo2

11. Sam w melvin gomez and katrina juarez 12. ??????????????????????????????? 13. DSC_0602


8. ACISAM staff and associates like Sam attending a workshop on the current political and economic reality in El Salvador.
9. Sam with several members of the Inter-Institutional Council for Mental Health Research, a new collaborative to bring attention and evidence based practices to meeting mental health needs in El Salvador.
10. Sam and Nelson Flamenco presenting to faculty and students on mental health and mental illness at the Pan American University.
11. Sam, Director of MHI with Melvin Gomez and Dr. Karina Juarez, who directs psychiatric treatment across the country, and psychologist Nelson flamenco and Cecilia Almendarez who run our community services program for users and family caregivers. They met in order to coordinate services and research partnerships.
12. Nelson Flamenco with representatives from one of our partner Nicaraguan mental health organizations. This picture was taken during a training of volunteer family instructors.
13. ACISAM group meeting with visiting guests.


Our program continues to thrive in Central America, but this does not mean we do not encounter struggles in providing the best care for those with mental illness. Social stigma portrays users with mental illness as second class citizens and as unproductive members of society. Local crime presents problems in rehabilitating and properly medicating users who would otherwise also fall into crime. Lack of familial support systems leave some users destitute and with little recourse.

14. Man with mental illness begging in the street as a bus  spews exhaust on him, El Salvador, September 2014 - med size foto15. Gangs 16. mental illness house


14. A man with mental illness begs on the street while a bus drives by and spews smoke at him.
15. Photo of house wall at entranceway to gang controlled neighborhood ACISAM works in. It says “look, listen, and be quiet.”
16. House at the end of street where man with mental illness lives. The whereabouts of his family are unknown. San Martin, El Salvador.


 About Us:

Mental Health International is a project of the Center for Health and Human Development. CHHD was set up in 2006 as an umbrella organization to provide funding and capacity building support to innovative, effective programs of health and human development, primarily in low and middle income countries. We also provide advice, consulting, and fiscal management services to start-up and young INGOs. Our Board members bring a wealth of international program development, management, fundraising, best practice, evaluation and research knowledge to the organizations we serve. Currently, board members are involved in projects of global mental health, global health, HIV-AIDS, educational innovation linking learning and research, women’s empowerment, and more.

The programs CHHD currently supports include:

  • Mental Health International (MHI)
  • Congo Village School Project (CVSP)
  • La Linea Scholarship Fund (El Salvador)
  • Seeds for Communities of Peace in (Burundi)

Mental Health International (CHHD) helps Salvadoran partner ACISAM to obtain 4-year $295,000 grant to expand regional mental health work

MHI-CHHD worked with ACISAM in El Salvador to obtain a foundation grant for grassroots work with mentally disabled persons (users of mental health services) and their families who have formed support groups across Central America. The program will provide organizational development and leadership training, a network to advocate together for improved mental health systems, educational curriculums for family and user support groups, mini-grants to these groups to carry out targeted projects including income generation programs, an annual conference, and communication and training tools, including a regional zine/journal that will include advice, best practices, research and inspiration to mental health leaders. MHI-CHHD’s role will be to provide planning, organizational development, evaluation, monitoring and research support. We are excited by the opportunities this new project presents!