Fall Fundraising Campaign

WE HAVE A GOAL OF $10,000 this fall. Can you help? All donations appreciated!

TO DATE:  $3170.


Annual update on MHI’s mental health work in Central America

  1. Last year, the Center for Health and Human Development (CHHD) rebranded itself as “Mental Health International” since we began expanding our work to other Central American countries. But our goal is the same: to strengthen family and user groups across Central American so they can serve one another and advocate for improved national mental health systems.


  1. We held our first regional conference for users (patients with mental illnesses) and family caregivers in October 2015, with almost 200 in attendance over 5 days from four countries. This was an exciting and empowering first-time gathering for people across the region who suffer high levels of stigma and human rights abuses due to their status of having psychosocial disabilities. See photo above.
  1. Throughout the year our national Salvador program continued to develop new programs in various parts of the country. In addition to our two large groups in San Salvador, new family and user support and education groups now exist in Cojutepeque, Santa Marta, Villa Victoria, and Santa Ana, serving about 50 new families to date this year.
  1. Sam finished his PhD program at JMU after carrying out his dissertation study for 7 months in El Salvador. He collected data on the impacts of our programs and compared outcomes with a control group from El Salvador’s national psychiatric hospital. He is now writing grants to the National Institute of Mental Health and large foundations to help expand mental health services into rural areas of El Salvador and other countries in the region.


  1. This last year our partner agency in Central America, the Association for Training and Research in Mental Health (ACISAM), won the national “Culture of Peace” award for it’s many programs that contribute to creating a better El Salvador, including our mental health programs. Photo: mental health program director Nelson Flamenco, ACISAM executive director Raul Duran, and CHHD/MHI director Sam Nickels.
  1. In April, Sam invited Nelson Flamenco to join him in attending the World Bank—World Health Organization “Out of the Shadows” summit on global mental health and global development in Washington DC. Afterwards, we attended a day workshop for researchers and mental health leaders from many countries, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. NIMH arranged permissions for Nelson to obtain his visa to enter the U.S. These were amazing events and well worth our effort to develop knowledge and to network with NIMH and foundation leaders from the Rockefeller Foundation and other large donors. After the conference, Nelson got to visit family in California that he had not seen in years. What a treat for him!
  1. In addition to Sam’s dissertation study, we’ve published one more qualitative study on the program in El Salvador in a peer reviewed international journal: Nickels, S. V., Flamenco Arvaiza, N. A., & Rojas Valle, M. S. (2016). A qualitative exploration of a family self-help mental health program in El Salvador. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 10(26). doi: 10.1186/s13033-016-0058-6. Available online at: http://www.ijmhs.com/content/10/1/26.


  1. We are submitting two more papers for publication at this time: one is a study of how the media in El Salvador helps create stigma against persons with psychosocial disabilities. Sam supervised psychology and social work students from the University of El Salvador to carry out this paper. The citation is: Méndez-Moreno, L. B., Lopez-Cruz, F. A., Realegeño-Ramírez, H. E., Pietropaulo-Duanes, J. F., Orellana-Portillo, I. A., Argueta Guerra, V. V., Nickels, S. V., & Campos Tomasino, M. E. (2015). Does the media create Stigma? A study of mental health and disability in the media in El Salvador. Presented at the Regional Mental Health Conference in El Salvador, October 2015, and at the Mental Health America conference in Washington DC, June 2016. See photo above of these students.
  1. The other paper is one we hope will have wider impact. We collected the data at the national psychiatric hospital last year by interviewing 453 families. Entitled “Traveling to the central psychiatric hospital in El Salvador: An analysis of time and costs for families,” this paper documents how El Salvador’s history of centralizing psychiatric services into a single location (the national psychiatric hospital in the capital San Salvador) causes extreme hardship on 42% of the country’s general population that lives farthest from the hospital. The result is that up to 74% of people who need psychiatric treatment in these parts of the country do not access it because of barriers of time and cost.

We are running a campaign to raise $10,000 during the next 30 days. This is our only fundraiser for the year, and will meet our needs for the rest of the year. We are already at $3000 from a generous donor. Can you contribute as well?


Thanks so much !
Sam Nickels, PhD
Director, Mental Health International, a project of the Center for Health and Human Development.


Closing ceremony at awards presentation for people completing one of our training programs in El Salvador. Here young women with bipolar and other disorders sing a set of songs they had prepared for their families and friends.