Mental health is prominently featured on the agenda at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting and leaders from across the world are being urged to unite behind a call to action on this looming global crisis.

The emerging global mental health movement is encouraging world leaders at the Annual Meeting to agree it is #TimeToAct on mental health so that everyone, everywhere has someone to turn to when their mental health needs support.

As part of our work bringing together governments, businesses, experts, funders, campaigners and people with their own lived experience of mental health, United for Global Mental Health is supporting a number of activities at the WEF Annual meeting, including:

  • CEO Elisha London co-writing a WEF blog with WEF Mental Health Lead Peter Varnum, setting the agenda for the WEF Annual Meeting and arguing ‘why this is the year we must take action on mental health’
  • Hosting leaders at a recreation of The Friendship Bench, an innovative mental health solution from Zimbabwe
  • CEO Elisha London joining a press conference on mental health
  • UnitedGMH Ambassador and founder of The Friendship Bench Dr Dixon Chibanda speaking at a public session ‘mental health matters’ during which the Time To Act film is being screened
  • A one-on-one session with Dr Dixon Chibanda moderated by Ishaan Tharoor from the Washington Post

The public session at which Dixon Chibanda is speaking includes the Duke of Cambridge, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, HSBC CEO John Flint and Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson.

A number of senior business, political and civil society leaders are due to visit the Friendship Bench during the week, which is a replica of the first bench in Harare, Zimbabwe, on which specially trained ‘community grandmothers’ successfully help people cope with anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Today 400 grandmothers are helping 35,000 people on 70 benches across Zimbabwe and there are pilots running in a number of countries with plans to expand the project worldwide.

United for Global Mental Health founder, Elisha London, said: “We want to make 2019 go down in history as the year when the world agreed it was #TimeToAct on mental health. Having the support of trained friends, family, colleagues and medical professionals when I had PTSD and depression helped me to recover. The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting’s participants, particularly businesses and employers, have a key role to play in building a world where everyone, everywhere has someone to turn to when their mental health needs support, like I did. This year, the private sector should champion mental health as a boardroom issue and push their governments to make it a key pillar of their health commitments at the UN General Assembly in September and second annual Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit occurring in The Netherlands in October.”

Founder of the Friendship Bench project and United for Global Mental Health ambassador, Dixon Chibanda, said: “Bringing the Friendship Bench to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is an opportunity to demonstrate to world leaders that, with their support, simple, cost-effective initiatives like this can make a big difference to mental health support in many countries. The starting point is agreeing that it is time to act on mental health and coming together with the groundswell for change that is building across the world. I hope that this week we will see more leaders emerging to push forward the mental health revolution.”

World Economic Forum Executive Committee Member and Head, Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare, Vanessa Candeias, said: “We need to fundamentally change the narrative that mental health is an ‘issue’ that healthcare alone needs to solve. For global leaders to champion the cause during our Annual Meeting in Davos as one that requires cross sector, multi-stakeholder collaboration is a huge step in the right direction. Through our public-private cooperation platform, we look forward to continuing our work with the global community throughout 2019 to address mental health needs for communities, businesses and countries.”

@UnitedGMH will be sharing blogs, images and films from WEF across all of our social channels with the hashtag #TimeToAct. The World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting hashtag is #wef19 and its Twitter handles are @wef and @davos. Instagram: @worldeconomicforum

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