Following the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos last week, mental health is a bigger priority for world leaders than ever before. It’s now up to us to make the most of this momentum and turn it into action. It’s #TimeToAct on mental health.
Mental health was high on the agenda in Davos, fuelling media coverage and many visits to the Friendship Bench to learn more. The issue was repeatedly in the spotlight, including at a panel session, press conference and event with Dixon Chibanda, Founder of the Friendship Bench and United for Global Mental Health Ambassador.
Prince, CEOs and PM taking action on mental health
There were long queues to get a seat at the high-profile ‘Mental Health Matters‘ plenary session, where leaders made it clear it’s #TimeToAct.
Leaving behind the ‘stiff upper lip’, The Duke of Cambridge movingly shared his own emotional experiences as an air ambulance pilot, calling for more acceptance of mental health at workplaces, as did Bernard J. Tyson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente.
HSBC CEO John Flint shared his vision of creating the “healthiest human system” in the banking industry. He is already moving to equip managers with mental health skills and knowledge, enabling them to spot warning signs and direct people to resources.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talked about she had lost friends to suicide and explained that her government is prioritising mental health because it affects everyone. She vowed to do more and continue to make kindness a hallmark of her leadership, echoing the work of the Born This Way Foundation.
“The star of WEF 2019”: Friendship Bench inspires leaders to open up
The Friendship Bench was the place to be in Davos. From the minute the Annual Meeting opened until it closed, the Friendship Bench facilitated personal conversations with prime ministers, business leaders and innovators about the innovative and simple solution created by Dixon Chibanda.
To name just a few, visitors to the Bench included:
- Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed
- New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern
- Czech Republic PM Andrej Babiš
- World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
- Wellcome Trust Director Dr Jeremy Farrar
- Minister of Trade and Development for the Netherlands Sigrid Kaag
- ICRC President Peter Maurer
- Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff
- HSBC CEO John Flint
- PricewaterhouseCoopers CEO Robert Moritz
- Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney
- Editor of the Evening Standard George Osborne
- Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman
New funding: Wellcome to invest £200 million in mental health
Speaking at a mental health press conference, Dr Jeremy Farrar announced that Wellcome would commit £200 million of funding to mental health. Wellcome’s new five-year programme will focus on young people and learning more about depression and anxiety to improve treatments.
Our CEO Elisha London called for all leaders to make the global mental health challenge a top concern, stressing the need for more government funding and international aid. She also highlighted the importance of listening to people with mental health conditions and designing services not just for them, but with them in the lead (#nothingaboutuswithoutus).
Outlining how our workplaces must change, Elisha paid tribute to organisations likeCity Mental Health Alliance (CMHA) and One Mind at Work. You can read about how CMHA is cultivating openness on our Case Studies page, which also featuresWellcome, the World Health Organization and Royal Foundation.
Media moment: mental health in the spotlight
Below is just a small selection of all the coverage of mental health at Davos:
- Mental health featured prominently in a number of news round-ups, including by the Guardian and Financial Times.
- Devex published an article wholly dedicated to mental health at Davos.
- TicToc by Bloomberg released two video interviews with Dixon about the Friendship Bench and his four secrets to a healthy mind.
- Writing for Thrive Global, Sir Ian Cheshire, Chair of both Barclays UK and United for Global Mental Health, argued why mental health is a boardroom issue.
- Dixon Chibanda explained how his community-based, low-cost initiative works during a one-to-one conversation with The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor.
- The World Economic Forum (WEF) published a series on mental health, with contributions by Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard J. Tyson, Dixon Chibanda,Elisha London and WEF’s Peter Varnum.
- Elisha London shared her three signs of hope for mental health from Davos.
Next steps: making the most of the momentum coming out of Davos
- We must remind leaders to build on the foundations established by those – many with lived experience – who have dedicated their lives to tackling stigma, strengthening prevention and improving access to support.
- We must call on leaders to develop and implement solutions in partnershipwith the inspiring communities that have been doing amazing work, research and campaigning on mental health for years.
- We must sustain the momentum to ensure leaders from all fields make new commitments at the World Health Assembly, UN General Assembly, Global Ministerial Summit on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (taking place in Amsterdam), further World Economic Forum sessions and other events in 2019.
Join us in sustaining the momentum on social media
Help us make sure leaders act on mental health following the Annual Meeting. Click here for an auto-generated tweet or copy and paste the text below into a post:
#MentalHealth was in the spotlight at #wef19. I hope leaders in every field will support innovations like the @friendshipbench to open up mental health services to everyone in need. It’s #TimeToAct to deliver on the promises made at @davos.