CBM's mental health legacy

07.04.2019 15 Years of learning, growing and empowering in mental health at CBM

mental health workshop
Persons with lived experience engage in mutual support and empowerment in Sierra Leone. ©Sarah Isaacs/Momenta Workshops 2015
©Sarah Isaacs/Momenta Workshops

The launch of the new CBM Community Mental Health Initiative comes at an exciting and rapidly changing time for Global Mental Health.  Fifteen years ago, after our partners asked for support to work in the area of mental health, CBM recruited mental health advisors in Asia, Africa and Latin America. At the time, there was no defined field called Global Mental Health, hardly any recognition of this as a development priority, and very little funding for work in the area. In comparison to other areas of international development, mental health was very definitely at a point of having to learn from first principles how to address the disparities in access to care and support, and the terrible abuses of human rights that are perpetuated against people with mental conditions and psychosocial disabilities.

The last 15 years have seen great progress, as we have learnt from the wider field of global health, inclusive development, and implementation science. Within CBM we have been able to draw upon a rich history of health and development experience, and fantastic inclusive development expertise. Our partners in many countries have embraced the challenges of learning about a new area of work, and taught a huge amount to those of us who have been privileged to work in mental health in CBM. 

The new CMH Initiative will bring focus and scale to CBM's work

On World Health Day, April 7th 2019, we launch the new CBM Community Mental Health Initiative, a confident look forward at how we might concretely build on the work we have been doing to date.

Throughout the history of work in mental health in CBM, we have tried to balance responding to the range of different needs, with a focus on the most marginalised people in the poorest countries.  We have, for example, always sought to address the huge gap in services available in many countries by working with governments to strengthen the health system and make care and support available more locally. At the same time, recognising that the way that people are treated in society is probably even more important than services, we have engaged in work to change attitudes and challenge stigma, and to change discriminatory laws and practices, mainly by helping people affected by mental health problems to speak out about their own priorities. 

CBM has 15+ years in development and humanitarian work

The four priorities in the new initiative are:

  1. To strengthen and amplify the voice of people affected by mental health problems.
  2. To support their full participation in community life.
  3. To work with governments and other providers to build accessible, quality and person-centred health and other systems.
  4. To properly integrate mental health into other areas of work like humanitarian response, community based inclusive development and physical health care.

We will do this by strengthening our partners, growing funding in this area, learning from excellent research, and advocating for Global Mental Health to focus on the issues that matter to people in poorer communities who often do not have a voice. 

In this and many other ways, this Initiative will help us work towards achieving our aim: 

To promote meaningful participation in communities, improve quality of life, and broaden the choices of care available for people with psychosocial disabilities.

Dr. Julian Eaton
Director, Community Mental Health Initiative