With more then 100 others I attended today, 17 October 2011, this one day summit in Cape Town, South Africa. Although I missed the very first part of the day (due to waiting cue for the registration) and the very last part (due to the desire to do some groceries before shops were closed), I followed all the other 25 presentations and 6 plenary discussions.
The Movement for Global Mental Health is a global network, expertise and advocacy organization of nearly 100 member organizations and with nearly 2000 individual members. The Movement’s first Global Mental Health Summit was held in Athens in September 2009. In September 2007 The Lancet (global health journal) published the first series of articles on Global Mental Health. These publications served to spotlight on the unmet needs for health care of people living with mental illness, particularly in low resourced settings. These series were also the inspiration for the launch of this Movement for Global Mental Health. Today the Lancet and the Movement of Global Mental Health officially launched the new Lancet series on Global Mental Health: 6 articles and 4 comments.
I am not able to give a full summary of all what’s been told and discussed, but will give an impression by my 10 picks of the day:
1. David Ndetei from the University of Kenya and the Africa Mental Health Foundation and his colleague Victoria explained how they included traditional healers in their projects for case finding and diagnosis. Janet Amegatcher reported from Ghana that since they were not able to stop faith based healers from performing their faith based treatments, they started to train them as well on topics of human rights and psychopathology. Scaling up mental health care can include the training of traditional healers.
2. The PANUSP (old name: Pan African network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, new name: Pan African Network of People with Psychosocial Disabilities) finished a 2 days seminar the prior week and finished this meeting with the ‘Cape Town declaration of 16 October 2011’. The brand new chair of this organization, Robinah Nakanwagi Alambuya read the declaration aloud and solemnly; a plea on behalf of all Africans with mental health problems, finishing with: ‘We invite you to walk beside us. We know where we want to go’.
3. Charlene Sunkel, ex-user (of psychiatry) and now working for the Central Gauteng Mental Health Society and the Gauteng Consumer Advocacy Movement gave an overview of the activities of these initiatives with more then 1000 users/members. Amazing list, including performing arts, exhibitions, theatre, film, etc. And the principle of empowering mh-users to stand up for their own rights, with 50 fought cases of human right violations since 2006. A couple of paintings from the users of the projects where exhibited in the hall of the summit.
4. Rangashri Kishore from the Richmond Fellowship Society India gave a brief presentation about the Empower project. She showed us different example posters, from different countries, let us listen to an example of an audio message and other lively material for raising awareness for mental health issues. Yes, stop talking-talking, give us examples. Well done.
5. Abdallah Daar from the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases and the Grand Challenges Canada, did not use PowerPoint at all saying: ‘al lot of points, but not much power’ (or the other way around?). Enthusiastic explaining all the funding and grants which could be obtained by students and researches from low income countries, if they come up with a sound plan. He even mentioned grants for ‘Rising Stars’ who can even reach for a $100.000 if they keep on developing themselves.
6. Pamela Collins from the US National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) and the Medical Education Partnership Initiative mentioned a few funding resources, like the Collaborative Hubs for International Research on Mental Health and these Global Challenges, amongst others. And she educated us on how researches, students and career starters in low income countries could find their way in this funding and grant business. In the days ahead (World Mental Health Congress) she will explain more. Concrete steps; that’s sharing knowledge and experience.
7. The Movement for Global Mental Health is getting a renewed website, which will be online very soon. Ritz Kakuma from the University of Melbourne Centre for International Mental Health showed us the features and how the website is going to look like (nice, hip). I really like the shift from the ‘academic’ old site, with filters/censorship for postings, to a more democratic, real bottom up site, where every member can contribute directly on the site. Applause. I’m a bit afraid it can turn out into a mass, but still a very positive change in powers. And the movement is looking for more partners/volunteers who can help e.g. to make a mobile version of the website or translations in other languages. Feel invited.
8. Unfortunately Mental Health did miss the boat of the NCDs (Non Communicable Diseases) on the UN high level meeting on NCDs last September. But we have at least 2 passionate advocates for a second try. Rebecca Hock from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and John Copeland, present chairman of the World Federation of Mental Health, both had clear and concrete plans for how to achieve something like this high level meeting. For Rebecca aligned efforts to obtain a UN high level meeting on mental health. For John Copeland a ‘People’s Charter for Mental Health’ would be a good alternative, or get ‘a foot in the door’ in the UN by seeking an ‘UN consultation status’ for as much mental health organizations as possible.
9. Today the second Lancet series on mental health were presented and every attendee received a paper version of it. A very valuable source of information and research findings. As Vikram Patel explained in his introduction the writers of these series were not chosen from the well known few, but from members of the Movement, who showed interest in the matter, with 52% ‘new faces’ and 40% from low and middle income countries. One can download the articles and comments from the Lancet website.
10. Last but not least it’s great to meet and greet live on this summit. Although I’m an advocate for the new technologies and hope in the future we will save money and time with sound online sites, software and networks (and travel less). I particularly appreciated the presence of representatives of the user organizations at the summit and that they raised their voice. And, Joseph Atukunda from Heartsounds Uganda, yes, money does not make everybody happy (‘why are the mental health problems in rich countries even higher then in low resource countries?’). To wrap up with a few words from the Cape Town declaration of the PANUSP: ‘There can be no mental health without our expertise; we are the experts’.
With thanks to all the other presenters who are not mentioned in this summary,
Cape Town, 17th October 2011, Roos Korste, psychologist, blogger, trainer.