Supporting community-based mental health initiatives: insights from a multi-country programme and recommendations for funders

Author: June Larrieta1, Georgina Miguel Esponda2,3,4, Yashi Gandhi5, Nikita Simpson2,6, Maurice Biriotti2, Anna Kydd2, Julian Eaton7,8, Grace Kathryn Ryan7
1 SHM Foundation, London, UK
2 SHM Foundation, London, UK.
3 Health Services and Population Research, King's College London, London, UK.
4 ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health, King's College London, London, UK.
5 Addictions Research Group, Sangath, Goa, India.
6 London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
7 Centre for Global Mental Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
8 CBM Global Disability and Inclusion, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Conference/Journal: BMJ Glob Health
Date published: 2022 May 1
Other: Volume ID: 7 , Issue ID: 5 , Pages: e008906 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2022-008906. , Word Count: 244

Community-based mental health initiatives are uniquely positioned to understand the mental health needs of their local population and provide relevant, culturally appropriate and sustainable responses. However, at the grassroots level, mental health initiatives in low- and middle-income countries face key challenges, such as inadequate funding, barriers to demonstrating impact and difficulty engaging with stakeholders. The Ember Mental Health programme establishes 12-month partnerships with community-based mental health initiatives in low- and middle-income countries to support them to address these challenges, grow and achieve sustainability. This paper outlines a longitudinal qualitative study conducted to evaluate the 2020-2021 Ember Mental Health programme. Data were collected from March 2020 to March 2021 through semistructured interviews conducted with 11 initiatives at various time points throughout their Ember Mental Health partnership. A framework approach was used to analyse all data in its original language. Findings indicated that initiatives particularly benefited from provision of side-by-side mentorship; opportunities for skills strengthening and strategic thinking; occasions to network with other like-minded initiatives and/or experts in global mental health; and support on team empowerment and well-being. Based on these findings, we put forward various recommendations for funders and other stakeholders working to support community-based mental health initiatives in low- and middle-income countries. Through establishing collaborative partnerships that challenge more top-down, traditional funder-grantee relationships, it is possible to support the rich ecosystem of initiatives working to address the mental health needs of communities.

Keywords: health systems; mental health & psychiatry; public health; qualitative study.

PMID: 35537763 DOI: 10.1136/bmjgh-2022-008906