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One of CHHD’s primary programs supports a bottom-up approach to improved global mental health (GMH) in low and middle income countries (LMICs). We are supporting the development of consumer and family groups (CFGs). These groups provide support and education to the people and families that suffer the tragedies of mental illnesses. They are peer and self-help groups, often with the support or facilitation of professional volunteers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Movement for Global Mental Health have worked for a number of years to push down on governments, focusing on improved mental health policies and goals. We believe that working from the bottom up to strengthen civil society groups of mental health advocates who are passionate and knowledgeable is of equal importance if we are to achieve improved mental health policies, government funding, increased services and recovery empowerment that results in reduced stigma and greater human rights for persons with mental illness and their families in low resource countries.
In 2007, The Lancet journal launched a series to bring attention to the gap in services for people with serious mental illnesses (SMI) in LMICs. In some countries, as many as 90% of people with SMI do not have access to mental health treatment. This was followed by another series of GMH articles in 2011, one of which lamented the lack of progress in closing the treatment gap for poor people around the world. It is imperative that families and users of mental health services be empowered to participate in their own advocacy for change.
Another article highlights the barriers that we face to improved mental health services, then says: “Many of the barriers to progress in improvement of mental health services can be overcome by generation of political will for the organisation of accessible and humane mental health care …. Mobilisation and recognition of non-formal resources in the community must be stepped up. Community members without formal professional training and people who have mental disorders and their family members, need to partake in advocacy and service delivery. Population-wide progress in access to humane mental health care will depend on substantially more attention to politics, leadership, planning, advocacy, and participation.”(*)
CHHD is committed to build the capacity of community user and family groups so they can help achieve these goals and become partners in global mental health. Our first program is now underway in Central America. We are seeking partners for additional funding or research support.
(*) Barriers to improvement in mental health services in low-income and middle-income countries. The Lancet, Volume 370, Issue 9593, Pages 1164 – 1174, 29 September 2007.