Some of the most effective tools to improve Mental Health in Low and Middle Income Countries are:
-Free sharing and distributing of knowledge via internet or mobile phone
-Concerted global advocacy activities
-Possibilities for workers and users to connect and network worldwide
There are a couple of very valuable online communities who offer these tools. Here is an update of 10 of them:
- Movement for Global Mental Health:
The Movement for Global Mental Health aims to improve services for people with mental disorders worldwide ‘with two main principles: the action should be informed by the best available scientific evidence; and, it should be in accordance with principles of human rights’.
The Movement is a global network of individuals (in April 2013 about 900 members) and institutions (165) who support this mission. People can upload information on the site. There are categories like advocacy, human rights, research, policies, service delivery, They have an image gallery, an forum and monthly e-mail newsletters as well. You can follow the Movement on Twitter and on their Facebook group (but you must be logged in on Facebook to view or join this group).
A lot of influential organizations and persons are involved in this Movement. A good source for information and to be kept up to date regarding political and worldwide initiatives (the newsletter subscription!).
- World Federation for Mental Health:
The WFMH is an international membership organization founded in 1948 to ‘advance, among all peoples and nations, the prevention of mental and emotional disorders, the proper treatment and care of those with such disorders, and the promotion of mental health’. Individuals and organizations can become paid members, although not easy online, but via a special form (download, fill in, pay! and return). The federation has 41 voting member organizations from all over the world and a special ‘member only community/section’ on the site. Lots of resources and links. The WFMH plays the leading part in the annual 10th October World Mental Health day activities, and is organizing the bi-annual World Congress of the World Federation of Mental Health, next time in Buenos Aires, Argentinia, 25-28 August 2013.
Although the WFMH has a website, a Twitter account and Facebook page, they seems not yet very web2.0 minded. Twitter and Facebook accounts seem neglected and the site is more useful as a information source then a network medium. But their years of experience and continues activism and global activities makes it something you must keep an eye on if you’re interested in Global Mental Health.
- Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support Network:
The MHPSS network gives worldwide access to people, resources and knowledge related to work in emergencies and situations of adversity. End June 2011 this site was renewed and started using another platform. They received a Grand Challenges Canada grant for 2 years and with that money they are able to pay global hosts and expand their activities.
In April 2013 there are 1960 members, 1099 resources uploaded, 126 groups and everyday new members and files are added. You can submit info or questions about events, news and websites, recommend useful tools, articles and approaches. There are news, vacancies, training and events sections as well. You can also send and receive messages from other network members and follow each other. The MHPSS is active on Twitter and has a Facebook page. Very active online community.
- Centre for Global Mental Health
The Centre for Global Mental Health is a collaboration between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the King’s Health Partners (incorporating King’s College London). The vision of the Centre is to foster research and capacity building in policy, prevention, treatment and care with the ultimate objective of closing the treatment gap for people living with mental, neurological and substance use disorders. Only staff or research degree student at LSHTM or in KHP can become a member, but you can subscribe for the quarterly newsletter or scroll the website for information like resources, articles and links.
They have 30 research projects running in more then 20 countries and they offer a MSc in Global Mental Health, PhD and DrPH training opportunities and short courses as well. You can follow this centre on Twitter.
- World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry
This international organization advocates for human rights of users and survivors, speaks internationally, promotes the user/survivor movement in every nation around the globe and links user/survivor organizations and individuals. Organizations and individuals can become a member. They have a newsletter.
Although they do a lot of active advocacy and lobbying, the site is a bit static and I see no space where the members can directly contact or network. But you can contact them (see mail addresses in the list of Board Members) and at the more local level there will be ample opportunities to meet co-users and carers. Examples of local user groups are USP Kenya, TUSPO Tanzania, MHUNZA Zambia and European ENUSP.
- Mental Health Worldwide
Mental Health Worldwide is a global group founded by Linda Lee and dedicated to work together to advocate and increase awareness about mental health and the related issues and conditions. The group is constantly expanding and current members are from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Nepal, The Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and Zambia. The group includes persons impacted by mental health conditions, mental health workers including social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists, NGO’s, etc, especially in countries that do not have consumer organizations or NGO’s.
There are regular new blogs posted with a special interest in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and international and local events.
This website is working worldwide to “spread positive and hopeful messages about the experience of hearing voices”. It’s a online community for people who hear voices, but they offer a lot of information as well: blogs, fora, stories, video’s, research, publications, newsletter. You can become a member of their forum, follow them on Twitter, or become a member of their Facebook group (for this link you must log in at Facebook). They organize each year an international Hearing Voices Congress, in 2013 in Melbourne, Australia, 20-22 November.
I don’t think you will find the word ‘schizophrenia’ anywhere on this site. That is maybe the weakness, but also the strenght. The information on this site is limited to hearing voices and not about other mental conditions. I featured this site because it’s a bottom up initiative, which I like and where the whole web2.0 is all about.
- Society for Emotional Well-being Worldwide
‘The idea for SEWW was inspired by a dream to bring the tremendous and varied resources of the global community together for the promotion of mental health’. The SEWW aims to accomplish this through a web-based platform that enables networking and capacity building and exchange of knowledge, information and best practices. In December 2006, Pamela Collins founded and incorporated SEWW in New York State, USA. The website is renewed in September 2012 and now contains resources, news, fora and events. You can sign up as an individual and even submit your own blogs/articles. SEWW is on Twitter and Facebook.
An interesting website although until recently not much weekly/monthly activity. This changed a bit after the launch of their new site in September 2012 and they had hoped to reach 5,000 members by the end that 2012. But again, site seems to ‘sleep’ most of the time, and number of members in April 2013 is 178.
Psych Central is a community of people dealing with mental health, family, parenting or relationship issues. Their largest community is the Psych Central Community, where you can find 160 self-help support groups. They also have a second community called NeuroTalk that is smaller and focuses on neurological and related conditions (like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease). The website is also offering a medication library, blogs, ‘ask the therapist’, a ‘book of the month’ and quizzes/screening tests. You can subscribe for a weekly newsletter and follow them on Twitter (24.500 followers!) or Facebook (24.917 likes!).
This site seems thorough and very up to date. You can stroll through the site for hours if you like. Maybe the fora and information are not suitable for workers and users in Low Income Countries. But because it’s so big and successful, and a good example of a thriving and very web2.0 site, I featured it here. I hope it will give some inspiration to the dormant sites above to keep on going.
- Mental Health Community
This online community was launched in 2010 in order to connect people working on mental health issues in Low and Middle-Income countries. It allows people to share information and experiences and to network with partners and colleagues all over the world. Messages can be send between members of the community. This website could be a very rich source for networking and sharing, but it ‘fell asleep’; except a few new blog posts I did not see any activity in months and number of members dropped to 27 in June 2012. The people who initiated this site have other jobs now and the organization behind it, Global Initiative on Psychiatry seems not capable/willing to give it more attention/time. Really a pity. But when you feel invited to help you can send the current host (Anelia Zaharieva) an email: email@example.com. There is a a Twitter account and a Facebook page, but they seem dormant as well.