Click here to apply for a 12 month partnership with Ember
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.
Ember is calling for applications from community-based mental health projects and organisations working in low- and middle- income countries. Successful applicants will take part in a 12-month process designed to strengthen and grow their work.
Ember believes mental health interventions that grow out of communities are uniquely equipped to overcome issues of stigma and engage people in meaningful, culturally- sensitive ways. That’s why Ember’s focus is on supporting and strengthening grassroots innovation in global mental health.
One of the innovators that Ember work with is PDO in Kenya. I interviewed Iregi, the founder of PDO, to gain an insight into the services that this organisation provides, as well as the reason that such services are needed.