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Our update from April

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Our update from April

Co-developed at a global planning meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2019, Speak Your Mind is the first-ever global mental health advocacy campaign. Speak Your Mind focuses on building partnerships at national and global levels in order to raise the voices of people with lived experience to mobilise the public and influence policy change and increased financing for mental health service delivery. 


Speak Your Mind, or SYM, is powered by United for Global Mental Health. United for Global Mental Health convenes Speak Your Mind partners and advises them on national and global advocacy strategies. UnitedGMH also facilitates cross-country knowledge-sharing, provides capacity building workshops through a Comic Relief grant, makes connections to global partners, facilitates participation in a range of global consultations on mental health research, projects and events to share SYM partner insights and promote the various member organisations.


Last month, all Speak Your Mind national and global partners came together virtually for our annual planning meeting. In that meeting, we reflected on the challenges, successes, and experiences of 2020 and focused on establishing priorities for 2021. Two key themes emerged from that meeting: 


  1. The importance of linking action on mental health to the impact of COVID-19 and the growth in demand for mental health support over the past year and beyond

  2. The importance of focusing our work on improving the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities 


You will see these two important areas of focus being integrated into our work in future updates of upcoming activations and activities. 


Speak Your Mind started with a membership of 15 countries, but has since grown to 19 country partners. To learn more about each country team and what organisations are working on, please see below for more information.


The Speak Your Mind partners are part of a wider network of over 1000 mental health organisations from over 90 countries around the world - the Global Mental Health Action Network. The network is open to anyone to join and it connects people who are committed to securing greater political and financial support for mental health and those working to deliver mental health programmes around the world. To join the GMHAN see here.





In response to outdated mental health facilities being shut down but not replaced, the team are arranging housing for service users, within a broader focus on social inclusion. They are also speaking with the government to advocate for more community mental health services. The leading Speak Your Mind organisations in Argentina include: Asamblea de Usuarios/as de Salud Mental por Nuestros Derechos and Proyecto Suma



Australians for Mental Health is mobilising people affected by mental illness to build a mass movement. Through collaborating with sector partners, and working with key decision-makers, they have been working on the Mental Health Royal Commission to investigate deficiencies in Victoria’s mental health system to strive towards changing the future of mental health care in Australia. 



Speak Your Mind partner, BasicNeeds Ghana, is working to enhance public knowledge and awareness on mental health across the 16 capital towns of the country, and amplify the voice of hundreds of mental health service users and carers advocating for their needs and rights. They are mobilising civil society to call for greater investment in mental health services and for it to be included as an integral part of universal health coverage in the country.



The leading Speak Your Mind organisations in India, Sangath (youth organisation) and Mariwala Health Initiative, are working hard to advocate for the implementation of the Mental Health Act and for all Indian states to increase funding for mental health services. They are training and empowering lived experience advocates to amplify their voices and share stories to reduce stigma around mental ill-health. 



Intent on breaking out of silos, the team is finding partners from other sectors in order to mainstream mental health and fight stigma against people with psychosocial disabilities. Leading the charge on this front, campaign partners Yakkum Rehabilitation Center, CBM Indonesia, and Well Being Shelter is raising young people’s awareness of psychosocial disabilities nationally, having joined a social inclusion campaign.



Guiding vital legislation, the Kenya campaign team is moving to ensure the UN Convention of Rights for Persons with Disabilities is treated as a key reference point in the reform of the Mental Health Bill. The country has recently seen an increase in government engagement in the topic, with cross-ministerial mental health training and panel sessions on a range of mental health issues. SYM partners, Users and Survivors of Psychiatry Kenya, Nzumari Africa, International Mental Health Association, Amazing Minds Africa, are constantly working to ensure the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities are protected and youth voices are heard. 



In Liberia, SYM partner Cultivation for Users Hope have been advocating for increased access to mental health medication as well as greater financing. Consequently, the Ministry of Health made a commitment to increase the budget allocation for mental health. Cultivation for Users is the only Liberian organisation founded and run by mental health service users in Liberia. Beyond advocacy, they also work on capacity building, empowerment, awareness and stigma reduction.



Recently in Nepal, the Minister of Health and Population made commitments to several areas of mental health that SYM partners KOSHISH and TPO Nepal have heavily advocated for, including the approval and implementation of the draft mental health action plan, an increase in the mental health budget and the development of a new mental health division within the Ministry. 



The New Zealand government has allocated NZ$1.9 billion to mental health over five years in its first ever well-being budget. Campaigners are now working on how best to spend that. They envision a collaborative system change, reduced stigma, reduced suicide rates, counselling in all schools, employee assistance programmes in all workplaces, and early intervention. Voices of Hope has been leading the way, engaging people with lived experience, government, and the media to make their vision a reality.



In Nigeria, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative and Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative have been working on public mobilisation and government advocacy. Sustained digital campaigning has led to the ban of the dangerous pesticide Sniper which has been implicated in the majority of reported suicides. The organisations have recently been working on amplifying their mental health support services due to the impact of COVID-19 and raising awareness through online events and television broadcasts. 



The Pakistan team, led by Taskeen, has worked to leverage the increased awareness on mental health due to covid and in particular highlight the struggles of the underserved community to make the case for movement on mental health. They have brought together the civil society, major organizations like the WHO, and the Government to take tangible action on mental health by asking for the formation of a commission featuring mental health experts and individuals with lived experiences, and for the inclusion of mental health in the national action plan on Health.



Peruvian campaigners, led by Colectivo Descosidos and SODIS have formed a human rights and mental health coalition working hard to promote activism through empowering service users to learn about their rights, collaborating with mental health community center users and caretakers. They are working on developing a committee of people with lived experience to review laws and policies relating to mental health, improving the quality of services in their country.



The Philippines Speak Your Mind campaign, led by #MentalHealthPH, is working hard to mobilise public demand and action for mental health in order to improve the quality and accessibility of community mental health services. They are strong online campaigners, having secured a partnership with Twitter to promote their services, advance their advocacy messages, and advising Twitter on how to create a digitally safe place. They are currently partnering with 13 other mental health organisations and are working closely with the WHO and the Department of Health to consult on the Special Initiative on Mental Health.



In Sierra Leone, the Speak Your Mind team has travelled far and wide across the country, convening civil society to help push mental health higher up the national agenda. They have already seen great progress with the launch of the country’s Mental Health Policy and Strategic Plan. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation is also committed to revising the National Mental Health Act (Lunacy Act, 1902) in 2020 and to increase funding for mental health. In addition to forging alliances and influencing, campaigners led by the Mental Health Coalition - Sierra Leone are progressively moving at national level, convening civil society to help them push mental health higher up the government’s agenda.



The South Africa campaign aims to strengthen the partnership between the government and civil society for the implementation of improved mental health services, including increased funding and periodic studies. Through planning engaging events and activities, campaigners are working on increasing awareness of mental health amongst the general public and encouraging people with lived experience to share their stories. South African Speak Your Mind partners include: South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH); South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG); Waves for Change (youth organisation).



Sri Lankan campaigners, led by Consumer Action Network Mental Health Lanka (CANMH Lanka), are calling for intersectoral collaboration amongst the government to take on mental health promotion for youth, social services, education and rehabilitation. They are also working to involve the private sector to focus on corporate social responsibility with employees. They are collaborating with Miss World (Sri Lanka), the WHO, and other activists to improve mental health in their country. Shortly after COVID-19 pandemic began, they successfully advocated for medications to be delivered to the doorsteps of people with mental health conditions.



In Tonga the government approved the first-ever national Mental Health Policy - a policy developed by the Ministry of Health and the SYM campaigner and the founder of the Tonga Mental Health and Disabilities Association. Last year’s World Mental Health Day celebration saw the Tongan Prime Minister and the Minister of Health both announcing their commitment to mental health.



Anything but short-term in their approach, the Mind’s energies are going into holding the government accountable for delivering on the promises of the 10-year NHS Long Term Plan for mental health. They also work to address stigma and discrimination and improve community mental health services (including housing and employment) to ensure the social determinants of mental health are addressed. 



In the US, lead SYM partner Wellbeing Trust, are focused on aiming to achieve a collective vision and leadership of trans-partisan/trans-sector constituency to push for mental health reform, increase promotion of mental health in the workplace, and integrate mental health promotion, prevention and care within national efforts to achieve universal health coverage.