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Sharing experiences of improving mental health in Africa

Posted on January 24, 2018 by Comments are off

Whole GCC Team Photo

Experts from mental health programmes in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria gathered in London last week to share learning about the most effective ways to support people with mental health conditions in Africa.

BBC Milka InterviewThe five-day learning event was hosted by BasicNeeds UK, which has been part of the CBM family since 2017. It brought together three organisations that have been working to help people with mental health problems in different parts of Africa – Caritas Nyeri from Kenya, Voice Ghana from Ghana and Gede Foundation from Nigeria – along with BasicNeeds and CBM staff.

Scaling up community-based mental health care

In 2014, BasicNeeds received a grant from Grand Challenges Canada (GCC) to scale up community-based mental health care and support in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. The funding was used to support three local partner organisations to implement the proven “BasicNeeds Model”.  This funding, along with support from BasicNeeds, enabled Caritas Nyeri, Voice Ghana and Gede Foundation – all of whom had a strong track record of running other health or disability programmes in their own communities – to set up mental health programmes for the first time.

Gede Foundation had many years’ experience of working with people with HIV/Aids in Nigeria before they started a mental health programme with support from BasicNeeds.  Godwin Etim explains that attitudes towards mental health were a particular issue:  “It was an eye opener for us in Nigeria. Overcoming barriers – stigma and discrimination. It was the first programme in our province on mental health. Now people are openly coming forward.”

He valued the opportunity to learn from other organisations in different parts of Africa during the workshop in London: “We have learned so much about interconnected projects. Great to hear the positive results of these projects – that they are working and promoting community response [to mental health].”

Helen Karimi of Caritas Nyeri also valued the opportunity to review what had been achieved and learn from others: “It was a fantastic week, that we were able to evaluate the work we have done with GCC, looking at the successes and achievements we make and challenges along the way and the lessons learnt.”


Top – Members of BasicNeeds UK, Kenya and Ghana come together with partners from Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria for a lessons learned workshop at the Commonwealth Foundation in London.
Second – Milka Waruguru from Kenya speaks to BBC Worldwide – the event provided the opportunity to cast a spotlight on mental health in Africa, with the visiting experts interviewed by BBC World Service and UK newspapers.


In an interview with UCB, Adrian Sell, Chief Executive of BasicNeeds UK, highlights ways in which BasicNeeds is improving mental health in Africa >> listen to interview here.

BasicNeeds Kenya highlights the tremendous progress made in improving mental health in Kenya and tackling the stigma around the issue >> read the full article in the Church Times.

Chief Executive of BasicNeeds UK meets self-help groups in Gushegu, Ghana

Posted on January 4, 2018 by Comments are off

Meeting self-help group members in Gushegu, Ghana

During his visit to the BasicNeeds Ghana programme in December 2017, Adrian Sell, Chief Executive of BasicNeeds UK, visited Gushegu and met with members of seven self-helps groups. Adrian shares his experience:

Despite it being a Saturday and not normally a working day in Ghana several staff took time to take me on a visit to the BasicNeeds programme in Gushegu. Gushegu is north from Tamale and about two hours drive in the dry season (which we were in the midst of). The first part of the route is tarmacked but despite being a major route the road quickly turns to dust, albeit a well made up dirt road. Apparently in the rainy season the trip can take up to twice as long due to the impact of the water on the road. As we went further away from Tamale the road got worse and the population more sparse. The land was dry and dusty but home to many Shea Nut trees – new to me but the source of a butter that is set to be a significant export for Ghana. There were the expected collection of chickens, goats, cows and guinea fowl (a local delicacy) as well as wilder animals including Egrets, Kites and an array of other birds.

We arrived in Gushegu, a town that was home to many of the district’s services, including the hospital. We were there to meet up with seven self-help groups who had all converged for a periodic get together. The groups were mostly represented by their Chairs and other officials but the number of people in the hall suggested others had come along as well. Formal introductions were made and representatives of the different groups talked about what they did and how long they had been together. The main Gushegu group was one of the longest-standing BasicNeeds self-help groups in Ghana (and therefore in Africa as well). Their Chair person, Maryama was our host and greeted us warmly when we arrived.

People shared their experiences of mental health disorders, most prevalent was epilepsy but people also spoke of depression and psychosis. Many clearly also had physical disabilities alongside the challenges to their mental health. As it was a gathering of seven groups, people had travelled from up to thirty miles away to be there. Maryama talked of how useful a vehicle would be to help visit people and provide support when it was needed.

The groups had been hugely important for many people in offering support but also connecting people to treatment where it was available. Many people spoke of skills and income they had developed as a result of the groups and many also highlighted  the importance of having access to the right medication – often this being the difference between being disabled and being able to contribute to the community.

One of the members, Mohammed, spoke movingly of having been lifted from depression and becoming able to take part in an apprenticeship programme. He had started training to become a tailor and took great pride in pointing to his ability to make the clothes he was wearing. The confidence this had given him, along with the support of the group and his trainer, had made him able to attend school again and resume his studies.

The group closed with an activity that I think should be compulsory for all groups, namely with a song and dance. I confess I would feel as uncomfortable as most middle-aged white men in such a situation but the uplift and feeling of connection that it engenders is powerful to witness first hand.

We then left the groups, after sharing some parting good wishes, and visited Sana, one of the group leaders. She took us into her house and showed us the rice from which she was going to remove the husks. She paid 80 Cedis (about £13) for the rice and would then sell it on for around 120 Cedis (about £20). Her daughter could help by keeping birds from the rice while it dried in the sun. Removing the husk by hand would be a laborious and slow task but it allowed her to generate some income while also offering her daughter a way of contributing and being involved.

We also visited Maryama’s house where she had huge stocks of soap and skin cream that had been made by group members. This micro enterprise generated some income for the group as well as offering a communal activity. After bidding Maryam farewell we set off for the dusty hot drive back to Tamale.

- Adrian Sell, Chief Executive

Self-help groups equip people with skills, create livelihood opportunities, and enable them to make choices. Most importantly, it aids the recovery process for people with mental health problems and develops their confidence.

Find out more about how BasicNeeds uses self-help groups to promote good mental health.

Here are some stories of groups across BasicNeeds programmes.

Make a difference this Christmas…

Posted on December 18, 2017 by Comments are off

December is finally here and with it our thoughts turn to what to buy our loved ones this Christmas. Before lists and stocking fillers take over though, spare a thought to those with mental illnesses who remain wrapped in chains and denied opportunities.

Here’s how you can help:

Padampani Sapkota_LEADS NepalSupport a person access mental health care services close to their homes

Thanks to the community-based clinics run by BasicNeeds’ local partner, LEADS in some of the remote villages in Nepal, Padam was able to receive mental health care and treatment for his bipolar disorder. He is now better, is back on his feet and is very grateful for the support.

£30 could buy medication for a person with mental illness for 6 months >> Donate now

Self-help group - soap making in GhanaHelp a group start a business – this aids their recovery process and helps families lift themselves out of poverty

Self-help group members from the Northern Region trained by BasicNeeds Ghana on how to make soap and detergent, and on effective ways to package and market their products. Start-up resources have been provided, they have produced soap by themselves and have been able sell these products. Trained members will now train new members in the business.

£100 could help set up a business for a self-help group of people recovering from mental illness >> Donate now

Fundraise to support our work

This Christmas season, join in with your friends and family and help make a difference to someone’s life so they too can celebrate.

Download our Christmas fundraising ideas pack for inspiration.

You can set up your event page on JustGiving or VirginMoneyGiving.

2017-christmascandles-banner-300x250_1368Shop online and raise funds for BasicNeeds for free

Raise free donations for BasicNeeds by shopping online via Give as You Live. With a choice of over 4,000 top retailers including Amazon, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, Give as You Live will turn a percentage of your spend into a donation for us. Sign up for free now!




Find ways to make a donation here.

BasicNeeds wins most votes among League of Legends gaming community

Posted on November 20, 2017 by Comments are off

Shiva lives in Nepal and is recovering from depression.

Video game developer Riot Games, will donate at least £1 million to improve the lives of people living with mental illness after BasicNeeds won the most votes among players of their game “League of Legends”.

80% of people affected by mental illness live in low- or middle-income countries, where most have little or no access to treatment.  Many live in extreme poverty, facing isolation, rejection and abuse. Mental health conditions such as depression are the leading cause of disability worldwide, often leading to immense suffering and limiting a person’s ability to live independently, earn a living or participate in their community.

Anxiety and depression are recognised issues in the gaming community, the fact that Riot Games, the organisation behind one of the most successful online games: League of Legends, are taking such pro-active steps to help destigmatize and promote awareness of these issues is very encouraging.

Adrian Sell, Chief Executive of BasicNeeds says: “We are honoured that Riot Games have chosen BasicNeeds as one of the three charities to benefit from their charity fund and delighted that the League of Legends community have chosen to support people with mental health problems in the world’s poorest places. Globally, millions of people living with mental illnesses are deprived of treatment and support. This affects their ability to actively participate in domestic, social and economic activities thus limiting their opportunities to lead a better life. Mental illness impacts not just the sufferer but also family members who take on caring roles which reduces their capacity to engage in productive work. The funds received will help us to make a real difference to many more people with mental illness and their families in the places where help is most needed.”

League of Legends players answered the call to vote for 3 charities: BasicNeeds, Learning Equality and Raspberry Pi, during the 2017 World Championships. The final donation pool which is atleast £2 million, was raised through purchases of Championship Ashe and the 2017 Championship ward. 4,039,022 players voted for one of the three charities and votes were multiplied based on the player’s Honor level. As the winning organisation, BasicNeeds will receive 50% of the donation, with the remainder split between the other two charities.

A big thank you to Riot Games and to the League of Legends community for supporting people with mental health problems in the world’s poorest places.

For more information, read the Riot Games official statement.

Image: Shiva, who lives in a remote village in Nepal, suffers from severe depression. Thanks to the support of BasicNeeds’ local partner in Nepal – LEADS, Shiva is now better able to manage his condition and helps his wife run the house. 

Lord Blunkett highlights the importance of mental health

Posted on November 8, 2017 by Comments are off

Lord Blunkett highlights the importance of mental health

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett has highlighted the need to improve mental health support for people in the world’s poorest communities. Speaking at a reception at the House of Lords on 1st November which he hosted on behalf of CBM and BasicNeeds, Lord Blunkett pointed out the scale of this global challenge and how more needs to be done to ensure that no one is left behind.

“If we know that mental health is a massive issue here in the UK, imagine the scale of the problem in developing countries…”

The reception brought together parliamentarians, BasicNeeds & CBM supporters and international development sector leaders to raise awareness of the exclusion faced by people with disabilities, especially those living with psychosocial disabilities caused by mental health conditions.

80% of people with mental health problems live in low-and middle-income countries.  In low-income countries, people are more likely to experience poverty, unemployment, migration, and poor health and education systems, all of which increase vulnerability to mental illness. Depression alone is a leading cause of disability worldwide, often causing immense suffering and preventing people from earning a living or participating in their community.

Adrian highlighting BasicNeeds' work at the House of Lords eventBasicNeeds Chief Executive Adrian Sell spoke about how mental health conditions such depression and anxiety are on the rise in the UK especially among children and those in the workplace. An environment that should be nurturing and supportive is currently at risk of disabling and harming people’s well-being. He also emphasized on the global mental health treatment gap: in low- and middle-income countries, between 76%-85% of people with mental disorders receive no treatment, compared to 35-50% in high-income countries.

Adrian explained how BasicNeeds and CBM’s work over several years has helped people living with mental health conditions to access the treatment and support that they need. The recent merger between CBM UK and BasicNeeds presents a big opportunity to reach out to many more people in need of help. By combining the innovation and entrepreneurial approach of BasicNeeds with the global reach and infrastructure of CBM we have the potential to take mental health to scale and will unleash the potential of millions of people around the world.

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