An Update from CHHD and MHI
CHHD’s Mental Health International program has been working hard this year, and there are many things to celebrate with the program. Over the last six months we have been developing the Mental Health Regional Program, in collaboration with our Salvadoran partner, ACISAM. Our work extended to Panama, where we launched our new Family Education Program. We also have been active in Costa Rica, where Nelson Flamenco and Sam Nickels held a training with family caregivers. They had the privilege to hear stories from users of mental health services and their family caregivers of how the program has been improving their lives. They also held planning sessions with leadership from six user and family groups from across Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
Mental Health International’s goals include providing opportunities for people to advocate, developing leadership, and creating and empowering a stronger and more effective civil society network to change national policies and improve mental health wellbeing in Central American countries. With your financial and personal support we’re able to keep building on these successes. Work is now focused on preparations for the first Central American Regional Conference of users and family caregivers scheduled for October.
Your contributions help make the work we do possible. Please donate today to make community-based mental health services, education, support, and advocacy available to everyone in Central America.
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.
First Meeting of the Regional Mental Health Network
CHHD’s Mental Health International director Sam Nickels participated in the first regional meeting of user and family associations in Central America. Read about this important new support network on our MHI page — Mental Health International Regional Meeting.
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.
1. Two new participants drawing in the art therapy program, Olvidio and Boanerge. (pictured under our work this year) 2. 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. 3. Program participants visit the house of a user who has missed recent sessions. Users realize the importance of continually attending the program. 4. 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.
5. ACISAM staff and associates like Sam attending a workshop on the current political and economic reality in El Salvador. 6. 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. 7. Sam and Nelson Flamenco presenting to faculty and students on mental health and mental illness at the Pan American University. 8. 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. 9. Nelson Flamenco with representatives from one of our partner Nicaraguan mental health organizations. This picture was taken during a training of volunteer family instructors. 10. 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.
11. A man with mental illness begs on the street while a bus drives by and spews smoke at him. 12. Photo of house wall at entranceway to gang controlled neighborhood ACISAM works in. It says “look, listen, and be quiet.” 13. House at the end of street where man with mental illness lives. The whereabouts of his family are unknown. San Martin, El Salvador.
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. 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)
Mental Health International (CHHD) helps Salvadoran partner ACISAM to obtain 4-year $295,000 grant to expand regional mental health work
CHHD-MHI 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!
See our webpage “Mental Health International” for more information.