Mental health is a pressing global challenge. Mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) disorders account for 14% of the global burden of disease, yet 85% of people do not have access to treatment. Partially as a result of this treatment gap, MNS disorders will cost the global economy more than $16 trillion in the years 2010-2030. $7 trillion will come from developing economies that can least afford such losses.
The World Health Organization estimates a four-fold return on investment in mental health. Yet many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) spend less than $2 per capita on mental health, and 70% of LMICs’ mental health budgets is spent running inpatient psychiatric facilities. These facilities are typically overcrowded, unequally distributed, and in some cases, dangerous. Meanwhile, only 0.4% of development assistance for health is allocated to mental health, compared to 30% for HIV. Much of the development assistance for mental health goes to research.
Innovators are coming up with new solutions to improve mental health in low-resource settings. Partially as a result of the concentration of development assistance for mental health in research, there are a number of promising innovations which have been tested in LMICs. But their future is uncertain. How do you transition from a time-limited research or development project into a programme capable of making long-term, widespread impact on people’s lives?
The Ember Project’s mission is to find, connect and support innovators with the tools, resources and skills needed to sustain and scale up their innovations. Ember is a collaboration between The SHM Foundation and the Mental Health Innovation Network team at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Our multi-disciplinary team is composed of professionals and academics with diverse experience in mental health and public health more broadly. Since 2016, we’ve been building our networks and approach to help innovators tackle three major challenges:
• How to move from “funding led” to “funding enabled”.
• Making tough, strategic choices about the future.
• How to transition from a research project to a business or social enterprise.
Over the next six months, we will be working with three innovations to pilot this approach. Each innovation targets a different population, on a different continent, and is facing a different core challenge as they work toward sustainability and scale-up:
In the coming days, we’ll discuss these challenges more in-depth as we also introduce our team and this inspirational group of innovators. So to stay up-to-date on all things Ember, follow us on twitter @Ember_Incubator and watch this space.
The Comprehensive Community Mental Health Programme
Public-Private partnership providing community mental health services in Benue State. Led by Philip Ode
Support groups for indigenous women in rural Guatemala. Led by Anne Marie Chomat
The Tree that Jaya Grew: Using Tree of Life in the Rural Indian Himalayas
Jaya* was only 9 years old when I met her. She lived across the path from the house where I was staying, in a village at the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. The village was quiet most of the time – stumpy mud houses with slate roofs, new pillar-box concrete houses painted lollipop colours, bordered by small step farms where wheat, corn and rice were grown in a cycle throughout the year.
An Ember Story
A’s Story - “I have waited twelve years to get this information; I don’t want other mothers to suffer like me.” - These are the words of A, a mother of two sons with intellectual disability and thalassemia living in a village in North Pakistan, where there is low literacy and no mental healthcare or caregiver services available. People have to travel miles to see a doctor, something that they can only afford to do once a year as it costs them a lot of time and money.
Buena Semilla wins Gates Award for Planting Seeds and Nurturing Change
In May 2018, the Gates Foundation announced an initial seed grant to Buena Semilla as part of Grand Challenges Explorations. This $100,000 USD award will allow Buena Semilla to extend their unique approach to women’s psychosocial health and wellbeing to new target populations in indigenous communities of Guatemala.