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The Global Mental Health Action Network Biannual Meeting: 10 key takeaways

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The Global Mental Health Action Network Biannual Meeting: 10 key takeaways

Early Autumn is always a busy time of year in the global mental health calendar, and 2020 was no exception. The Global Mental Health Action Network (previously known as the ‘BluePrint Group’) held their first virtual Biannual Meeting of their 1000 members from 79 countries with six events over five weeks.

Here are the key takeaways from the panel events, workshops, community week and more...


  1. State of Global Mental Health 

At a time when everyone, everywhere has become more aware than ever of the fragility of their own mental health, and the mental wellbeing of their loved ones, access to services has decreased. This has been the subject of the weekly and now fortnightly webinars that look at Mental Health for All around the world and have involved countless GMHAN members over the past 6 months.  

Globally the need and demand for mental health services has become much greater, yet health budgets have become even more stretched. The biannual meeting Devex session ahead of World Mental Health Day concluded we must all continue to call for financing for quality, accessible mental health services, and push governments to build back better. 


  1. The Network’s key successes

The size and scope of the Global Mental Health Action Network has increased significantly over the past two years, with nearly 1000 individuals from 79 countries signing up to work collaboratively on mental health advocacy and communications. The group has produced multiple policy briefings, communications toolkits, advocacy briefings, and taken part in prominent global events.


  1. Mental Health and the Sustainable Development Goals at UNGA

One of the Biannual Meeting events, was hosted as an UNGA side event, in collaboration with Devex. This session focused on the importance of prioritising mental health financing, policies and services in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. It highlighted the intersectoral nature of mental health, and the need for strong mental health policies to be at the heart of COVID-19 recovery efforts.

The Network’s ad-hoc UNGA working group produced this advocacy briefing, detailing the many ways mental health intersects with the SDG’s.


  1. A diverse network

Midway through the meeting, the Network held a Community Week; forging opportunities for network members to meet each other and network in a virtual setting. One of the activities of Community Week involved encouraging network members to share information about themselves and their organisation on the Network’s LinkedIn page. The LinkedIn group now has over 430 members who are regularly sharing information and opportunities to collaborate. 


  1. 93% of countries have reported disruptions in their services for mental, neurological and substance use support due to COVID-19

Devora Kestel, Director of Global Mental Health presented the results of the new WHO survey on COVID-19 and mental health services. The results showed the wide ranging impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the mental health services across the globe. This disruption - and how to solve these challenges - has also been covered over the past few months in the GMHAN webinars.


  1. Hundreds of thousands of people across 60 countries are currently being chained for having a mental health condition.

During the Network’s event on investing in mental health, the Disability Rights Director of Human Rights Watch presented their new anti-shackling campaign. HRW have been members of the GMHAN since it was first established. You can read more about the groundbreaking #BreakTheChains campaign here.


  1. The need for youth engagement guidelines for Global Mental Health

During the Youth and Child Workshop, the group brainstormed key considerations for a set of Youth Engagement Guidelines to help set out how young people with lived experience can best be consulted by organisations wishing to develop mental health programmes. Group members are volunteering their skills and time to help build a plan for the development of these guidelines as an international resource.


  1. Creating an Advocacy Roadmap

The Network is working on a document aimed at generating increased political and financial support, reduced stigma and better policies and practice, with a focus on advocacy, influencing, communications and campaigning related activities. This will be a mapping of all the key collaborative activities planned with others working in global mental health. The Global Advocacy Roadmap will be published by 31st October via the Network, and kept up to date each month as plans evolve.


  1. Financing is critical 

Through discussions over the year, The Financing Working Group has decided that advocacy efforts to increase and improve domestic financing for mental health should not just be focussed health ministries, who usually have constricted budgets and are competing with other government departments, and therefore finance ministries who are at the heart of government spending power also need mental health advocates’ attention. The Working Group is now tackling the issue of how to advocate to finance ministers, beginning with the following three steps:

  1. Submitted a briefing to leaders at the World Bank, ahead of the Annual Meetings
  2. Publish an article on The critical need for finance to unlock better mental health
  3. Develop a guide for advocates: How to make the case to finance ministers guide for advocates


  1. Lived experience must be at the heart of the global mental health community

As we move from the Biannual Meeting on to new engagements, advocacy moments and events we must ensure we always put the voices of people with lived experience of mental health conditions at the heart of our work. We were delighted to hear from speakers from the Global Mental Health Peer Network at both sessions hosted by Devex, and are hugely enthused by the work of the Youth and Child Working Group, who are creating guidelines for the inclusion of young people with lived experience. 


The Global Mental Health Action Network is an open community of mental health professionals who share a mission to protect the right to good mental health and work together to advocate to improve political and financial support for mental health across the world. You can join the network here.