A regional approach to mental health is influencing change in West Africa

by CBM Australia



The Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Program is working towards mental health reform in five countries of West Africa.

Project implemented: 2015-2019

Project goal

The project aims to reduce the disability that is associated with mental illness in five countries of West Africa.

delivering on

why is this project important?

CBM, Universities of Melbourne and of Ibadan, collaborated to develop mhLAP. It sits within a suite of regional efforts.

Key steps to make it happen

1Leadership training

Champions trained together from five countries in leadership and advocacy for mental health reform.

2Stakeholder councils

Stakeholder councils developed in each country and become registered as peak bodies for mental health.

3Awareness raising

Stakeholder councils raise awareness and work with government for change of mental health policy and services.

4mhGAP training

Training of trainers in the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Program (mhGAP) who support mental health in primary health care.

5Quality Rights training

Key people trained in the WHO Quality Rights Toolkit to address human rights standards in mental health facilities.

6Community attitudes

Awareness raising at community level and with traditional healers to challenge traditional attitudes and promote inclusion.

New mental health legislation is in place in Ghana as a result of the project.

In The Gambia the project has resulted in development of a national mental health policy and strategic plan, and there is work to update legislation into a progressive mental health law aligned to human rights legislation like the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

A local campaign to eliminate harmful human rights violations has been developed in The Gambia, called Drop the Cane and Chain. This approach has seen strong success. For example mhLAP’s facilitator in The Gambia Dawda Samba (pictured) explained how in one community use of the chain and cane by traditional healers has reduced. Previously, this approach was used with approximately one third of people with mental health issues who were brought to traditional healers. A recent survey indicated the practice is now used with approximately five per cent of people presenting.

The Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Program (mhLAP) is a regional initiative working to train, build change and advocate for mental health reform in five countries of West Africa (The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone). mhLAP is supported by CBM and has received funding through the Australian Government’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program.

Key “champions” from each country with interest or influence in mental health participate in leadership and advocacy training. Stakeholder councils are then formed, develop action plans and work with their governments to influence policy development and improve availability and quality of mental health services. The project also provides training in the World Health Organization (WHO) Mental Health Gap Action Program (mhGAP); introduces the WHO Quality Rights Toolkit to assess and improve quality of care in mental health services; and works with traditional healers to change attitudes and practices at grassroots level.

collaborating organisations

related projects

Cooling the planet to feed the World by PundaZoie Company Pty. Ltd.
Economic independence on traditional land by Indigenous Business Australia
Applying SDGs – Determining Socio-Economic Indicators ... by Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Victoria
Fair food farm by Green Connect
E.S. P. Wool production by Kia Ora Merino
It’s Our Place – Bellambi by Australian Social Investment Trust
The Victorian Salt Reduction Partnership by The George Institute for Global Health
Addressing the social determinants of injury by The George Institute for Global Health
SDG National Forum by Fatouma TOURE
Delivering sustainable development through infrastructure by Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA)
The Individual Deprivation Measure Global Program by Individual Deprivation Measure
Green Star by Green Building Council of Australia
Strong Women. Strong Business by Indigenous Business Australia
Green Star – Communities by Green Building Council of Australia
ANZ SDG Bond by Australia New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ)
Barangaroo South by Lendlease
Feeding the Performance of Regional Communities by International Convention Centre Sydney
creating the capacity for people to invest space with meanin... by Place Agency at the University of Melbourne
Vision Initiative by Vision 2020 Australia
Strengthening the Effectiveness and Extent of Medical Physic... by Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)
International Legal Training Program by McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer
We’re all in this Together by Healthy Cities Illawarra (HCI) and University of Wollongong (UOW)
Business & Sustainability Forum Series by United Nations Association of Australia (WA)
Applying SDGs – Determining Socio-Economic Indicators ... by Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Victoria
Anti-Racism: It Stops with me campaign by Australian Human Rights Commission
Transforming Australia: SDG Progress Report by National Sustainable Development Council
Financial Inclusion Action Plan by Good Shepherd Microfinance
ChildFund Pass It Back by ChildFund Australia
Thriving Communities Partnership by Thriving Communities Partnership
SDG Toolkit for Systems Thinking and Collaborative Approache... by Australian Council for International Development
Willing to Work by Australian Human rights Commission
Spatial data infrastructure to help monitor and evaluate Aus... by AURIN – Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network
#SeaToSource by Conservation Volunteers Australia
Day At The Zoo by City West Water

Does your organisation have a project to include?