Projects in Africa, Asia, Haiti Demonstrate Effective, Affordable Mental Health Treatment, Earn Next Step Scale-Up Funding

Projects in Africa, Asia, Haiti Demonstrate Effective, Affordable Mental Health Treatment, Earn Next Step Scale-Up Funding


This entry is a repost of a Press Release from Grand Challenges Canada dated January 27th 2016. View the original post.

Toronto, Canada – Based on a successful pilot project in which traditional Kenyan healers and community workers helped identify almost 500 cases of mental illness, Grand Challenges Canada, which is funded by the Government of Canada,  today announced a major scale up investment to be matched by partners.

The Kenya initiative is one of six innovations in Africa, Asia and Haiti earning scale-up investments,  their pilot projects having proven effective at addressing mental health problems in low-resource countries.

The two other Africa-based projects, in Uganda and Zimbabwe, for the first time integrate treatment of depression into HIV patients’ care. 

Meanwhile, two Asia-based projects, in Pakistan and Vietnam, will create care for children and youths as well as adults.

And a project in Haiti is providing cost-effective mental health treatment in a land where badly neglected bipolar and other neuropsychiatric disorders constitute 10% of the health burden.

The scale-up grants of CDN $4.1 million through Grand Challenges Canada will be more than doubled by the contributions of partners in the six projects, creating a total investment of $8.7 million.

“The Government is proud to support initiatives such as this that will benefit the most vulnerable. By investing in innovation to improve the effectiveness of mental health services in developing countries, Canada is helping to accelerate positive change and find solutions to global development challenges. I strongly believe Canadians can play an important role in making Canada a leader in development innovation.”


- Canada’s Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau.

Says Dr. Peter A. Singer, Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada: "People with mental illness in the developing world are too often simply ignored or hidden in a bleak darkness rather than helped.  It has been a privilege to support these groundbreaking projects since their inception, to see the convincing evidence of their positive impact, and now to help scale up the success of six bold ideas which will improve the health of tens of thousands of people.”

Mental health disorders constitute 14% of global disease worldwide.  But almost three quarters of this burden occurs in low- and middle-income countries, where a shortage of trained personnel and other resources leave enormous populations with little or no access to mental illness treatment.

Through its Global Mental Health portfolio, Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada, has invested over $39 million to date to develop the Mental Health Innovation Network and funded 70 projects in 26 countries, including 15 large “transition-to-scale” investments.  To date, the portfolio of innovations has reached over 100,000 people, and over 10,000 people have accessed treatment. Given the early stage of the innovations, the true impact will occur in the coming years as the most promising of these innovations transition to scale.

“Canada is among the world’s leading funders of global mental health innovation. Its leadership is helping to turn the tide in the global mental health challenge, with substantial impact in low and middle income countries.”


- Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization

The funding announcement coincides with Bell Let’s Talk, a Canadian initiative promoting mental health with national awareness and anti-stigma campaigns.

For more information, visit

All projects being awarded grants to scale-up:

  • Multi-sectoral stakeholder approach to scale-up community mental health
  • The Friendship Bench
  • Social, Emotional and Economic empowerment through Knowledge of Group Support Psychotherapy content
  • Mental Health in Adults and Children - Frugal Innovations
  • Scale-up and evaluation of the Family Networks program for children with developmental disorders
  • Promoting a community-based mental health model in rural Haiti and building a national scale-up plan

About Grand Challenges Canada

Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact® in global health. We are funded by the Government of Canada and we support innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The bold ideas we support integrate science and technology, social and business innovation to find sustainable solutions to health challenges – we call this Integrated Innovation®. Grand Challenges Canada focuses on innovator-defined challenges through its Stars in Global Health program and on targeted challenges in its Saving Lives at Birth, Saving Brains and Global Mental Health programs. Grand Challenges Canada works closely with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Global Affairs Canada to catalyze scale, sustainability and impact. We have a determined focus on results, and on saving and improving lives.

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