The Lancet Commission on global mental health: 1 year on

It’s been one year since the worldwide launch of the Lancet Commission at the first-ever Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit. Below is a summary of the Commission’s activities and achievements from the past 12 months.

Building on the Commission’s recommendation on monitoring and accountability, our Global Countdown tool first profiled in a Lancet commentary, will collect and analyse mental health data from around the world, tracking progress and guiding investment.

The Countdown launched on 23 September 2019 at the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Goalkeepers event in New York, as part of their mental health accelerator, which aims to build and strengthen a “multi-sectoral response, catalyzing government action, calling on corporations to make a commitment to mental health in the workplace, and tracking quality data”. On the media front, The Guardian covered the Countdown in an exclusive.

The Countdown’s core partners are: Global Mental Health at HarvardWorld Health Organization, United for Global Mental Health, Global Mental Health Peer Network and The Lancet.

Watch the segment announcing the Foundation’s mental health accelerator below.

In addition to the Countdown, Global Mental Health at Harvard (GMH@Harvard) is leading on a number of initiatives to catalyse, inspire and innovate for mental health.

In partnership with 7 Cups, GMH@Harvard is working on a digital platform called ‘EMPOWER’ for providers to learn, master, and deliver evidence-based psychosocial treatments. It aims to train over one million front-line workers in five years.

GMH@Harvard is also planning to host an executive leadership program called ‘CHAMPIONS’ that will enable leaders globally to promote the scaling up of mental health care through instruction and mentoring by Harvard scholars and a global learning collaborative of peers. In five years, the ambition is to have developed a cadre of 100 global mental health champions globally who can mentor future generations.

Also in the works is a ‘joined-up’ program of evidence-based interventions to help create – and demonstrate the impact of – nurturing environments to promote mental health and prevent ill health among young people in a diverse array of populations globally.

Courses specifically aligned to Commission content are also being taught, such as Foundations of Global Mental Health & Sustainable Development and Case Studies in Global Mental Health Delivery.

Overall, the Commission has been very positively received by policy-makers, civil society and researchers, with a major increase in awareness and positive developments within the themes championed by the Commission – although direct attribution of course isn’t possible.

On 10 October 2019, the President of Pakistan launched the President’s Plan for Promoting the Mental Health of Pakistanis which is directly informed by the Lancet Commission. Commissioner Atif Rahman is the technical and scientific advisor for the programme.

In the UK, the Commission has informed the Department of International Development (DFID) as it has developed a new theory of change for mental health.

The Commission’s recommendations have also proved core to the advocacy of the BluePrint Group (BPG), which aims to achieve influence on mental health worldwide. In addition to advocacy, the BPG works on communications and sharing learning, comprising of over 250 representatives of governments, international organisations, NGOs, academia and the private sector – including many Commissioners.

As part of its call to leaders to invest in mental health, the global Speak Your Mind campaign (active in 15 countries) supports the Commission’s recommendation that low and middle-income countries should spend at least 5% of their health budgets on mental health and high-income countries should spend at least 10% of their health budgets on mental health. Speak Your Mind campaigners are not just making asks, they are getting results; in Tonga, they have already secured a tripling of the mental health budget.


This year’s World Health Day, the executive summary of the report was translated and disseminated in French, funded by the Wellcome Trust. Reaching new audiences, the translations were shared through the networks of partners such as the WHO Collaborating Centre in Lille, World Psychiatric Association and CBM International. Commissioner Julian Eaton will share the French assets at a meeting of Francophone African mental health stakeholders in November 2019.

Looking ahead, the executive summary will be translated into Russian and is due to be launched later in the autumn. This effort is being led by Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP, with support from United for Global Mental Health.


The Young Leaders have been busy with a number of events and online campaigns through their My Mind Our Humanity account on Instagram.

In collaboration with the Mental Health Innovation Network, they launched a Youth Mental Health Policy Brief at a NCD Child side event at the World Health Assembly and are due to launch a music festival. In June, they organised a gathering in Eldoret, Kenya, which brought together over 250 people including university students. artists, academics, health advocates and people with lived experience.

Upcoming activities include an online Music Festival, attendance at high-level events, such as the UNICEF Leading Minds Conference, and consulting for the Lancet Commission on the Value of Death and the WHO-UNICEF Global Report on Developmental Delays and Disabilities.

Earlier this year, they hosted an online Mental Health Poetry Festival, which encouraged young people to post poems about mental health on Instagram. Attracting over 850 submissions in five languages, the Festival was very well-received by young poets, many of whom had never shared their art or mental health experiences with anyone before. One of the entries, by a young poet from Tanzania, was made into an animated video, using her own voice-over.


Initially securing 62 media hits in 15 countries, with a mention in a widely covered op-ed by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO and Lady Gaga, the Commission has continued to feature in a number of mainstream and academic publications, with Google Scholar listing 129 citations of the Commission.

Vikram Patel and Shekhar Saxena contributed an article on mental health and universal health coverage, featured in a special issue published by the Global Governance Project to inform the 2019 G20 meetings in Japan. The Joint Lead Editors also co-authored a BMJ analysis on universal health coverage for mental disorders.

Commissioner Janice Cooper provided expert advice on a CNN opinion piece by Rosalynn Carter, former first lady of the United States and Liberian mental health advocate Bill Jallah.


The worldwide launch of the Commission took place on 10 October at the first-ever Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit, held in London and hosted by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care.

Commissioners have since presented findings at major events around the world, including in Switzerland, Canada, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Portugal, the USA and more, listed below in reverse chronological order:

25 September 2019: Vikram Patel delivered one of the plenary talks at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health for All National Conference.

24 January 2019: Portuguese launch event at NOVA Medical School, in Lisbon. Commissioners Shekhar Saxena and Benedetto Saraceno spoke at the event, as did Young Leader Claudia Sartor.

13 November 2018: Nigerian launch event, organised by the Federal Ministry of Health and sponsored by the World Health Organization and CBM based at Ibadan University. Commissioners Julian Eaton, Florence Baingana and Young Leader Chinwendu Ukachukwu all participated (see photo below)

From left to right, Julian Eaton, Chinwendu Ukachukwu Florence Baingana at the Nigerian launch of the Commission in November 2018

13-14 November 2018: Shekhar Saxena spoke about the Commission at the World Innovation Summit for Health in Doha, Qatar, holding ‘meet the author’ sessions to explain more about the report’s findings, helping reach audiences in the Middle East.

25-6 October 2018: Shekhar Saxena presented at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care in Astana, Kazakhstan.

19 October 2018: Dedicated Commission session at the Global Action on Mental Health Event in Seattle. Commissioners Shekhar Saxena, Jürgen Unützer, Janice Cooper and Pamela Collins all spoke at the event.


The Commission is rapidly becoming a regular component of teaching of public mental health. In addition to the courses mentioned above at Harvard, the Commission is also a set source material for the MSc in Global Mental Health, co-organised by King’s College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It also features in the curriculum at the  Lisbon Institute of Global Mental Health, as well as summer courses run by the Swiss School of Public Health.