Mental Health campaigners from Asia-pac unite one month ahead of the mental health revolution kicking off at the United Nations General Assembly

Immediate release 29th August 2019: Grassroots campaigners from five countries around the Asia-Pacific region have come together in Indonesia this week as part of the ‘Speak Your Mind’ campaign, a new global campaign to achieve mental health for all. The campaign brings together people with first-hand experience of mental health conditions, experts and civil society organisations to call on leaders to end the neglect of mental health by increasing investment, empowerment and education.  

As a nationally driven, but globally united campaign, five countries from across the region met this week to focus on how citizens can lead the growing global movement in order to improve mental health in their countries. Countries attending the workshop included Australia, Indonesia, India, New Zealand and Tonga.

According to the Economist mental ill health in the Asia-Pacific region is the second largest contributor to years lost due to disability, and statistics released this week show that suicides rates are the highest they have ever been in New Zealand (since records began). The economic impact is also hampering growth in the region.  Between now and 2030 unaddressed mental ill health will reduce economic growth in India and China alone by $11 trillion, and it currently knocks 3.5% and 5% of GDP off GDP in Australia and New Zealand respectively.  

The team attending the workshop and leading the Speak Your Mind campaign in Tonga, Leonaitasi Hoponoa says “it is time to end the tsunami of ignorance and inaction in mental health in the Asia-Pacific region”.  

Despite the challenges the region faces, the clear message from campaigners this week has been that there is hope. 

Emrhan Sultan from Orygen in Australia explains, “My hope is to close to gap for Aboriginal + Torres Straight Peoples, and to ensure mental health is supported so that no child, woman or man goes through mental ill health alone”. 

Sweta Pal from Sangath in India hopes that “this global movement to amplify and unite stories of lived experiences will enable us to create a future where every young Indian feels empowered to talk about their mental health without fear or judgement and is able to access and receive affordable and appropriate mental health care, and know that they are not alone”.

“It’s clear each country has its own challenges, it is motivating and empowering to know we all share the same vision and can work towards it together, said Jenya from batyr in Australia.  “By connecting with our reginal neighbours, we have the opportunity share and learn best practice in our corner of the globe to improve mental health for all”, concluded  Lisa Sweeney from Australians for Mental Health.

In addition to sharing best practice, the campaigners are preparing to unite their voices across the region and the globe in the coming months, and inviting the public to join them. 

Next month, the Speak Your Mind campaigners will be heading to the UN General Assembly to call for inclusion of mental health in the Universal Health Coverage high-level political meeting, and celebrate leaders who are demonstrating leadership in addressing this growing global crisis.

Jazz Thornton, suicide survivor and Co-Founder of Voices of Hope, says “to be part of this campaign and workshop has given me so much hope for change.  Hope that people care not only about talking about change, but actually creating change.”

Thornton says ”meeting with countries from across the region this week I have learned that all countries are requiring an increase of funding from national governments to mental health.  Less than 2% of national health budgets are spent on mental health across the world, and less than 1% of international development assistance for health is spent on mental health.  I am proud that New Zealand is leading the way in announcing an increase in national spending through the $19B wellbeing budget announced earlier this year, however, it’s important this funding is simply spent on a broken system”.

Respect for human rights is also key to the campaign, so as to guarantee everyone’s access to positive mental health support, drive reform and prompt laws that promote the rights of those with lived experience.

As campaigners met in Indonesia, they joined together with mental health and disability advocates from a variety of regions, and learned more about the impact of mental health in the context of disasters and conflict in the region.  The Indonesia team was clear about their message to their leader “If you want to invest in human development, we urge you to prioritise a better mental health system and its implementation” said the representatives from Indonesia including Bangun Aceh, YAKKUM and Well-Being Shelter.

The campaign and the workshop this week has been backed by some global funders, individuals and organisations including Comic Relief.  The Speak Your Mind is funded globally by The Getch Foundation, Comic Relief, d’Harcourt Foundation.  Official Global Supporters include the Born This Way Foundation, YMCA, Global Mental Health Peer Network, Nexus and is powered by United for Global Mental Health.

"Comic Relief is proud to support Speak Your Mind's dynamic grassroots campaigners to lead the charge in inspiring governments and other funders like us to step up and invest to create a mentally healthier future for everyone, everywhere" said Liz Warner, Comic Relief CEO.

The Speak Your Mind campaign is powered by United for Global Mental Health, an organisation working to amplify the voices of people affected by mental health conditions, increase financing and ensure quality mental health support is accessible to everyone, everywhere, worldwide. 

"Speak Your Mind was created by people with lived experience of mental health from around the world to amplifying citizens voices and demands, so leaders hear them. This week we have seen that together, we are stronger. While WHO figures report countries are failing to meet their own targets for reforming mental health policies and increasing investment and the rights of those with mental health conditions are being violated in many countries, we have hope. Yet good mental health for all is one of the best and most important investments we can make in our world right now - for individuals, economies and society at large. Now is the time to act for the future we need, and we are thrilled to be supporting the campaigners leading this campaign all over the world so that their visions can be achieved.” said Elisha London, CEO of United for Global Mental Health.

Citizens around the world who believe in a world for mental health for all are invited to join the campaign and by pledging to speak their minds at www.gospeakyourmind.org.

Ends

Global media contacts:

Melanie Archer, Global Health Strategies

+44 (0) 7708 182027

marcher@globalhealthstrategies.com

 

Louisa Sampson, United for Global Mental Health

+44 (0) 7746 303905

louisa@unitedgmh.org

 

Notes for Editors:

The campaign currently involves civil society campaigners from the following 15 countries: Argentina, Australia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tonga, the United Kingdom and United States.

Key Facts and Figures

  • Mental health conditions are on the rise in every country in the world.

  • Over three-quarters of people with mental health conditions in low- and middle-income countries receive no support at all.

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds.

  • Less than 2% of national health budgets are spent on mental health across the world.

  • Less than 1% of international development assistance for health is spent on mental health.