10 stories of global mental health impact from 2019

It has been an incredible year for United for Global Mental Health. As 2019 draws to a close, we have been reflecting on some of the key highlights and achievements for both our organisation and the wider movement for global mental health.

1. The BluePrint Group grows to over 400

Over 400 representatives of international organisations, governments, academics, businesses and trusts and foundations have joined the BluePrint Group – a group designed and facilitated by United for Global Mental Health to encourage greater global collaboration and impact in mental health advocacy and communications.

2. Mental health at Davos

Mental health took centre stage at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos in January with global leaders such as The Duke of Cambridge and the Prime Minister of New Zealand participating in a special session on mental health alongside Zimbabwean activist Dixon Chibanda.

3. Mental health given parity with physical health

At the UN High Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) leaders from around the world agreed a declaration that called for greater action on physical and mental health, adopting the language advocated by the BluePrint Group. For the first time mental health was truly recognised as a core component of UHC which is critical at a time when countries are formulating their UHC and SDG plans for 2030 and beyond.

4. The launch of the Speak Your Mind campaign

The Speak Your Mind campaign was designed by campaigners and experts from 15 countries in Johannesburg in January, at a meeting facilitated by United for Global Mental Health. It was then officially launched at a special event at the UN General Assembly in September. This nationally-led, globally-united campaign calls on governments around the world to invest, empower and educate to make mental health a reality for all. HSBC have partnered with the campaign, supporting at a national and global level and implementing a mental health employee education programme available to all 238,000 employees across 65 markets.

5. Governments call for integration of mental health in Global Fund programmes

Using a paper developed by BluePrint Group members, governments advocated for greater integration of mental health in the Global Fund’s work – following a replenishment of the Fund worth $14.5 billion. Now BluePrint Group members are advocating for changes to policy and practice to help accelerate efforts to improve the mental health of those at risk of, or already affected by, HIV/AIDS and TB.

6. Mental Health made a Goalkeepers Accelerator by The Gates Foundation

Mental health was announced as an Accelerator for the first time at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual Goalkeepers event, with United for Global Mental Health acting as the ‘tentpole partner’ to bring together the initiative. Goalkeepers brings together partners from different sectors to catalyse expertise, investment and innovation and drive progress towards the Global Goals. Several pledges were made, which included the Sierra Leonean government’s commitment to revise the 1902 Lunacy Act which has promoted the involuntary incarceration of people with mental health conditions. In October 2020, a new bill will be taken to parliament, guaranteeing the right of every citizen to mental health support.

7. The 40 second voice petition

Speak Your Mind and partners engaged in the #40seconds campaign and developed the 40 second voice petition, to raise awareness to the fact that every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide. The #40seconds campaign was the most successful World Mental Health Day campaign in terms of reach and impact of recent years. Participants included the UN Secretary General, the Heads of both the IFRC and ICRC, the Executive Director of UNICEF and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, as well as activists from all over the world.

8. Launch of the Museum of Lost and Found Potential

On World Mental Health Day, the Museum of Lost and Found Potential was launched in London. The museum showcased stories from 16 people with lived experience of mental ill-health from around the world and explored what is lost to societies when mental health isn’t invested in, and what can be found when it is. There are now plans for it to tour internationally in 2020.

9. Mental Health Leadership by the Netherlands

United for Global Mental Health worked with the Government of the Netherlands to develop and deliver a ministerial summit to address mental ill health in emergency and conflict settings. The summit was attended by a wide range of UN leaders and governments. United for Global Mental Health worked with the Bernard van Leer Foundation and experts in parent and carer mental health to gather evidence of how mental ill health affects early childhood development. This led to an experts meeting on the subject and commitments to work together to advocate for greater action in this area.

10. Campaign wins in Tonga, New Zealand and Nigeria

Speak Your Mind campaigners were instrumental in achieving the following national policy wins: The government of Tonga developed their first-ever National Mental Health Policy and tripled their mental health budget. Mental health is a key part of their new National Youth Policy and is being incorporated into the high school curriculum.

In New Zealand, the government has allocated NZ$1.9 billion to mental health over the next 5 years, in its first-ever well-being budget. Campaigners are now working on how best to spend the newly allocated funds. In

Nigeria, campaigners ran a successful digital campaign to get the dangerous ‘Sniper’ pesticide banned, which is involved in the majority of suicides in Nigeria.

Although we have achieved so much in the past year, there’s still a lot left to do. But what these successes show is that the tide is changing. Citizens, governments and businesses around the world are listening and joining the movement to demand action on mental health.

We are at the beginning of a mental health revolution.