Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority

CBM is taking part in a series of events co-hosted by the World Bank and the World Health Organization on 13 and 14 April 2016. These events aim at prioritising mental health in the global development agenda.

During the two days, ministers of finance and development agencies will hear how countries of all income levels have successfully scaled up mental health services, often using innovative approaches.

One highlight of these meetings is an Innovations Fair at which mental health experts from around the world will showcase successful mental health projects in which they have been involved. Carmen Valle, who worked in Sierra Leone with CBM will be showcasing its partner project on providing mental health services and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in Sierra Leone during the Ebola Virus Disease crisis.

Background of project

Due to the 2014-2015 Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa, communities were severely affected in many ways: many people died in a distressing way, many were separated from their loved ones, or had to cope with quarantine and separation, many who survived had to live with long term physical consequences. This is particularly difficult to cope with at a time of grieving or being concerned about the welfare of your family. Health care providers were overloaded and stressed, particularly as such workers were disproportionately represented among the victims. Social stigma increased towards those who connected to people with Ebola disease, worsening distress and isolation. Ultimately, whole communities experienced the fear and suffering that disease outbreaks often cause.

This project aimed to reduce psychological trauma associated with Ebola disease by providing psychological and social support to those affected by the outbreak in Sierra Leone, as well as preventative psychosocial interventions aimed at children and their families. Building on an existing programme in country, this innovation decentralized services and aimed to make MHPSS support available in all areas and all sectors of the population. 

An associated programme worked to ensure that health messages were accessible to all communities, by working with different marginalised groups like persons with disabilities to develop their own messages that overcame the usual barriers they experience.

I want to express my profound gratitude to EAMH and their Ebola response. This programme has deeply transformed mental health in Sierra Leone.
Hon. Foday Sawi. Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation. Government of Sierra Leone

Further contributions to meetings

In addition, CBM Mental Health Advisor, Julian Eaton will be presenting on how best to address the problems that people with sensory impairments have with mental health issues. For a number of reasons, rates of mental illness are higher in this group, and Julian will be representing CBM and the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) to discuss how we can reduce this problem and ensure that appropriate services are accessible to people with hearing and visual impairments. 

In addition to the main mental health events at the World Bank/WHO meeting, there are a range of other side meetings during this busy week for global mental health. It is expected that the week will culminate in some major announcements related to how the global development community can more effectively prioritise mental health. This is happening at a key time, with mental health and well-being having been recently highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goals that will guide the global development agenda until 2030. While mental health was much more prominent in the SDGs than in the MDGs that preceded them, there is now need for tangible investment and implementation of the evidence based interventions that we know can transform peoples’ lives, especially in the poorest countries of the world which are currently most neglected.