Leaving No One Behind – 5th Global Mental Health Summit

The Movement for Global Mental Health (MGMH) and the South African Federation for Mental health (SAFMH) will be hosting the 5th Global Mental Health Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa from 8-9 February 2018. This summit is one of a series of biennial summits that the MGMH hosts to set service intervention and policy targets deriving from the agenda topics. The theme for 2018 is “Leaving No One Behind” which aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasizing that mental health (MH) forms a vital component in achieving the SDGs. The aim is to bring to the forefront the voices of persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities and establish their role as key partners in mental health.

To find out more about this summit, we had a Q&A session with the host of this event Charlene Sunkel, who is also the Principal Coordinator for the MGMH

  • What makes events of this nature important to highlight?

The voices of persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities had been silent in many countries and over many decades, yet all that is done (or not being done) in mental health directly affects them, most often in a negative way that violates their basic human rights. On the other hand, as individuals with lived experiences, they are ultimately the experts and can add great value in terms of up-scaling mental health care and services. Through contact-based education, end-users and those who care for them can more effectively break down the stigma attached to mental health conditions.

  • How timely are the topics that will be addressed at the summit?  

The SDGs are current and countries (world leaders) have committed themselves to achieving these goals. It is therefore vital that we start talking about how we are going to achieve these SDGs without leaving anyone behind, and mental health is relevant in one way or another in each of the SDGs.

Topics and the SDGs that will be tackled during the summit include:

  • The state of global mental health
  • No Poverty
  • Quality education
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Good health and wellbeing
  • Gender equality
  • Reduced inequities
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • Partnerships for the goals

These topics will be discussed in depth covering "Persons with Lived Experience - the key partners in mental health and sustainable development""Overcoming poverty through quality education and decent work and economic growth""Social movements giving a voice to persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities"; and "not forgetting vulnerable groups," amongst others.

"Through contact-based education, end-users and those who care for them can more effectively break down the stigma attached to mental health conditions"

- Charlene Sunkel (Principal Coordinator for MGMH and Program Manager for SAFMH

  • How is this summit different from other MH events?

The summit brings together international experts in the field of global mental health, but most importantly it includes persons with lived experience from across the world to join as partners and experts in the deliberations during the summit. In South Africa, but also on the African continent, persons with lived experience still face an enormous amount of stigma and abuse and often endure this in silence. The summit provides the platform to raise issues that affect persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, and together with the professional experts, derive resolutions and strategies to up-scale mental health care and services and also improve the quality of life of the people who live with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities.

With the summit theme being "Leaving no one behind," as per the aspirations of the SDGs, it is very much what must be achieved in the mental health sector. Mental health has always been left behind and more so in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). The summit will highlight that there is no sustainable development without mental health and call on countries to acknowledge this and place mental health as a priority.

  • Considering what is going on in the country right now regarding mental health (such as the Esidimeni tragedy), what would you say is the significance of hosting this event specifically in South Africa?

South Africa can greatly benefit from the wealth of information (evidence-based) and innovations that will be presented at the summit. It will also help guide South Africa towards deinstitutionalisation so that events such the "Life Esidimeni tragedy" never happen again and that from hereon, we do things the right way. That means focusing on the rights of persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities and also focusing on where they are involved in the decision-making process. There is a specific panel that will discuss the featured topic "Deinstitutionalisation and community integration – a human right." And as mentioned, several other panels will also be relevant, e.g. "Persons with Lived Experience – the Key Partners in Mental Health and Sustainable Development," "Getting 'creative and innovative' to achieve recovery and mental wellbeing," etc. 

  • How exactly will the the voices of the persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities be brought to the forefront? Will they be engaged as an audience or as part of the panels?

Persons with lived experiences feature prominently on the summit agenda and in each of the panels there will be a representation of persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities. And as much as they will feature on each of the panel discussions, they will also have the opportunity to engage as an audience.

Here is more of what guests can expect at the summit

Attendees will also witness the launch of the Lancet Series on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development. There will also be a section for exhibitions and poster presentations, theatre performances and video clips as well as an opportunity to watch and participate in live interviews and discussions.

Another exciting outcome of the summit will be the launch of the Global Mental Health User Network (GMHUN) – linking persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, and user movements under the global umbrella within the MGMH, strengthening the voice of users from across the globe. 

Past Global Mental Health Summits

Since the establishment of the MGMH in 2007, the first summit was held in Athens in 2009, the second in Cape Town in 2011, the third in Bangkok in 2013 and the 4th in Mumbai in 2015. These provide an opportunity for people from across the globe who are passionate about mental health to come together to share experiences and innovations, discuss the needs and upscaling of mental health services, identify opportunities to overcome challenges that impact on the lives and human rights of persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities. 

Registration and contact details

More information on how to register can be obtained from the 5th Global Mental Health Summit information sheet. Alternatively, you can send an email to summit@globalmentalhealth.org or visit the Global Mental Health website. The draft agenda lists all the prospective speakers and topics that will be tackled during the summit. 

Children and adolescents
Older adults
Families and carers
Minority populations
Humanitarian and conflict health
Primary care
Specialist care
Policy and legislation
Human rights
Empowerment and service user involvement
Prevention and promotion
Detection and diagnosis
Treatment, care and rehabilitation
Training, education and capacity building
Child behavioural and developmental disorders
Psychosis/bipolar disorder
Depression/anxiety/stress-related disorders
Alcohol/drug use disorders
Dementia and other neurocognitive disorders
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An amazing initiative for promoting good mental health awareness. though I got to know about this today, sad I will miss it.
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