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An Extraordinary Year for Mental Health

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An Extraordinary Year for Mental Health

It has been an extraordinary year for mental health around the world. While COVID-19 has presented a set of new and unprecedented challenges, we have also seen the pandemic shine a light on mental health like never before.


Around the world, our Speak Your Mind (SYM) partners have continued to push for change, coming together to collaborate and take action on a national and global level. 


In June 2020, mental health campaigners from Pakistan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka worked collaboratively to establish the South Asia Mental Health Union (SAMHU). This idea stemmed from initial discussions at the SYM annual meeting in Kenya. SAMHU is now up and running and has already organised activities including a webinar to explore challenges and learnings around mental Health in the South Asia region, particularly in light of COVID-19. 


As part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Taskeen produced an animation video about mental health and the pandemic which they distributed through national TV channels in Pakistan. Taskeen also produced a study on the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on low income communities to use in their advocacy. Their biggest achievement, however, came in September, when they signed an MOU with the federal government, agreeing to support them with the Public Mental Health information campaigns and strategic input. 


In February campaigners met for the Annual Planning meeting
In February, campaigners from around the world came together for the SYM 2020 Annual Planning meeting. 


Engaging key figures and raising the political profile of mental health has also been a big success for a number of SYM partners in 2020. In July, following the advocacy efforts of CAN MH, the Chairman of the Election Commission in Sri Lanka highlighted the concerns raised by people living with psychosocial disabilities at a press conference. Meanwhile in the Philippines, #MentalHealthPH, secured the Vice President to speak at the virtual March for Mental Health for World Mental Health Day, where she voiced her commitment to further action on mental health in the country. 


There have also been a number of tangible commitments made as a result of the hard work of Speak Your Mind partners. In Tonga the government approved the first-ever national Mental Health Policy - a policy developed by the Ministry of Health and the SYM partner representative and the founder of the Tonga Mental Health and Disabilities Association. Meanwhile in Liberia, INGOs Médecins Sans Frontières and Partners in Health made commitments to provide psychotropic medication; and the Ministry of Health made a commitment to increase the budget allocation for mental health. This was a huge success for Cultivation for Users Hope, who have been advocating for increased access to mental health medication as well as greater financing.


While there is clearly more to be done on mental health around the world, it’s successes like these that show that tangible change is really possible. We are looking forward to another year of global action in 2021, and are sure that there is plenty more change to come!


Find out more in United for Global Mental Health’s 2020 Review.