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Creating a global movement for mental health

21-11-2014
Man addressing a community group formed to advocate for the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities.
© Dr Emeka Nwefoh
Man addressing a community group formed to advocate for the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities.

Jagannath Lamichhane is the Principal Coordinator of the Movement for Global Mental Health. CBM is a founder member of the Movement, and sits on the Advisory Group. In this article Jagannath discusses the progress made in building a global movement for mental health.

The creation of a Movement for Global Mental Health (MGMH)

The Movement for Global Mental Health (MGMH) celebrates its sixth year since it’s beginning in October 10, 2014. CBM is a founder member of the Movement, and sits on the Advisory Group. The Movement is growing bigger each year with more than 15,000 individual and 250 plus institutional members. Membership has spread to over 100 countries. In terms of achieving its original goals, which were to create a global website community and organize a biannual global mental health summit, the Movement can be deemed a success. As the first global initiative of its kind, the MGMH has created fertile ground for future initiatives and changes, along with a growth in its own potential to transform into a major grassroots movement for mental health. It has successfully championed the mental health issue as a renewed agenda internationally. In a short span of time, the MGMH has also developed as a global learning platform.

I salute those who conceived the idea of the global movement in mental health and started it. Further, I feel lucky to be associated with the MGMH from its beginning.  Since then, I have simultaneously been a part and observer of the Movement. We all know it’s not easy to create a strong movement, especially around a most socially stigmatized, fragile, isolated and under-resourced field like mental health. However, the MGMH is striving to materialize its dream of building a truly global movement.

The MGMH, its journey so far and why is wants to tackle obstacles faced by people with psychosocial disabilities

The MGMH represents diverse interest groups and stakeholders. There is however an overwhelming domination of western professionals and institutions within the MGMH, even as the main focus of the MGMH is low and middle-income countries. Further, there is gross under-representation of people living with mental health problems and their family members. Therefore, it will be hard work for the MGMH to diversify its membership and strengthen its support base in developing countries.

Because of other competitive priorities -- sanitation, public health, gender, natural disasters, infrastructure development, poverty eradication and more -- in the poor countries where the MGMH is focused, its not going to be an easy job for the MGMH to gain momentum in transforming mental health into such a political agenda so as to gain a ‘priority’ status, however, in one or other ways, mental health issues are related to the host of development issues. 

If we look at the history of any successful movement like the gender, disability, HIV/AIDs and civil rights movement, active participation and leadership of the directly affected communities is central. But in the MGMH, we lack this vital component at every level of leadership, development and membership.

Six years on from its inception, the MGMH is now in a phase of transition. A discussion is underway among the members – and beyond -- about the transformation of the MGMH from a website-based movement to a real, hands-on grassroots movement.

Transformation is possible with active participation, ownership and support from the local communities

The big question here is: Is this transformation possible? Without doubt, there is a need to create a grassroots movement in mental health. To maximize the impact of the MGMH, there is no better way than to morph into a fresh grassroots movement fuelled by those most effected by mental health problems living in some of the world’s poorest places.

This transformation is possible I think, but much work lies ahead in creating a dignified space and collaborative environment for directly affected communities in this global platform. Only active participation, ownership and support from the local communities will make this transformation possible.

If the Movement can become the true voice of people living with mental health problems and their family members, and win their trust in terms of giving the affected community hope for a better future, the MGMH holds tremendous potential to shape the future of mental health globally. We are yet to see how the MGMH unfolds in coming days.


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