Six Mental Health Care Projects in Developing Countries Demonstrate Effective, Affordable Options

Six innovations financed by Canada pioneer new ways to provide mental health care rarely available in low-resource developing countries



  • 100,000+ people reached by Grand Challenges Canada’s mental health program, 10,000+ treated
  • Pakistan ‘Family Networks for Kids’ project shifts tasks from health workers to relatives, neighbours; creates strong network of new recruits to care for youths with behavioral difficulties
  • Kenya’s traditional healers, faith healers and community health workers refer 1,600 to clinics, 500 diagnoses result
  • Zimbabwe’s low-cost ‘Friendship Bench’ demonstrates powerful impact in reducing depression

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.

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