Grand Challenges Canada

On the occasion of the United Nations’ International Youth Day, Grand Challenge Canada’s Global Mental Health Program, in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research and Global Affairs Canada, is announcing its first cohort of youth mental health seed projects. The 18 innovations all address mental health literacy and/or provide youth-friendly services for young people aged 10 to 24 in low- and middle-income countries. Young people, who are themselves closest to the challenges, were critical in shaping this call for funding, offering input on which areas should be of focus and being involved with every aspect of the review process. In addition, seven of the selected projects are led by women (*). 

Blue Banyan Consulting, India – Youth Awareness, Literacy and Self-Care Intervention Program 

Blue Banyan Consulting’s project will allow LGBTQIA+ youth, from participating colleges in India to examine and discuss their mental health concerns in a safe space and to collaborate with experts to design needs specific mental health literacy and self-care modules which will then be housed on a broader multilingual website. The project will also collaborate with media partners and public figures to create a nuanced public narrative on LGBTQIA+ communities and their mental health needs. 

Child’s i Foundation, Uganda – Youth Wellbeing Champions 

Child’s i Foundation’s project will address the gap in integrated/community-based mental health and wellbeing support for young people in Uganda, particularly those who have experienced institutional care. The initiative will upskill social work professionals and create a peer network of “well-being champions” to increase access to non-judgemental peer support.    

Eurasian Union of Adolescents and Youth Teenergizer, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan – #ShareWeCare* 

The #ShareWeCare project will extend Georgia-based Eurasian Union of Adolescents and Youth Teenergizer (EUAYT)’s existing online peer-counseling platform to provide youth-friendly mental health services to youth (15-24 years) in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Via a Web platform, the youth-led organization’s team of professional psychologists and trained peer-counsellors provide free and confidential counseling on various topics, including sexual and reproductive health and living with HIV, to young people from the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region.  

Free Yezidi Foundation, Iraq– Youth For HOPE* 

Free Yezidi Foundation’s Youth for HOPE project will adapt its existing tiered trauma treatment system for Yezidi youth living in the Khanke Internally Displaced Population (IDP) camp and in surrounding towns in Iraq. This project will train a team of youth Harikara (Helpers) in providing Psychological First Aid and delivering mental health literacy/support through alternative models like psychodrama and art.   

Green String Network (GSN), Kenya– Kumekucha Quest* 

The Green String Network will adapt its existing community-led social cohesion program, Kumekucha: It’s A New Dawn, for youth aged 18 to 24 in the Nairobi and Kwale counties of Kenya. This project will use a peer-to-peer model to increase understanding of trauma and mental health, teach practical skills for emotional regulations, and build resilience in youth who have experienced trauma. 

Indian Law Society, India – ENGAGE 

In consultation with young people, the Indian Law Society’s ENGAGE project will design and evaluate an online modular gatekeeper training course for suicide prevention—the leading cause of death for adolescents in India. It will also train teachers in secondary schools across three districts of Chhattisgarh to identify, support and refer at-risk adolescents to mental health services. 

Lebanese American University, Lebanon – Yes to Emotions in Youth* 

Lebanese American University’s Yes to Emotions in Youth (YEY) project aims to develop five emotional competencies (identifying, understanding, expressing, regulating, and using emotions) that are key to increasing youth’s resilience, health, autonomy, intra- and interpersonal wellbeing, and adjustment. The YEY program will be integrated into the educational curriculum at five Lebanese public high schools, with sessions delivered by youth leaders and facilitators to maximize community skill- and capacity-building. 

Make Music Matter Inc., Democratic Republic of Congo – Healing in Harmony* 

Make Music Matter,, a Canadian youth-led organization, will create and test a mobile non-facility based version of its Healing in Harmony (HiH) music therapy program in order to reduce the socio-economic and structural obstacles preventing young rural populations in the South Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo from accessing the tools they need to heal from trauma-related anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and feelings of isolation.  

Organización de los Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonía Colombiana (OPIAC), Colombia  Embracing the traditional and the Western: Indigenous youth’s pursuit to promote mental well-being 

Organización de los Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonía Colombiana, a youth-led organization, will combine Western and Indigenous worldviews to promote emotional and psychological wellbeing for Indigenous youth in the Colombian department of Vaupés. Indigenous youth will be trained as community mental health promoters, identifying mental health needs along with designing and implementing mental health promotion initiatives in their communities with support from elders.   

Reinserta un Mexicano Asociación Civil, Mexico  Mental health radio program and workshops for juvenile offenders in Mexico* 

Reinserta un Mexicano Asociación Civil, a youth-led organization, will pilot a cognitive-behavioral therapy-based mental health program to incarcerated youth in Mexico, focusing on decreasing dysfunctional thinking and improving problem-solving and emotional regulation. Youth undergoing community reintegration will also co-create a radio program on mental health and psychosocial education that will be broadcast within the detention center.   

Schizophrenia Research Foundation, India – Juveniles Accessing Mental Health Services* 

Schizophrenia Research Foundation’s Juveniles Accessing Mental Health Services project will support youth in Indian juvenile care and correctional facilities to build positive life skills and resilience through experiential learning within youth-friendly spaces. Facility staff will be trained in managing an assessment, treatment, and management cascade and referral pathways to locally available mental health services. 

Sembe World, Cameroon– Toolkit to enhance youth-friendly mental health services in nine Boko Haram-affected communities 

Sembe World, a youth-led organization, will provide youth-friendly mental health services in Boko Haram-affected communities in Northern Cameroon. They will establish community-based psychosocial support networks of leaders trained in mental health promotion, screening for common mental health disorders, and providing lay counseling and referrals to specialized care with the support of a locally adapted toolkit.     

Sense International India, India – Mental Health Awareness and Support to Children and Young Adults with Deafblindness and their Families 

In collaboration with regional partners, Sense International India will develop a curriculum to upskill Special Educators and Community-Based Rehabilitation Workers on recognizing signs of mental distress, providing strategies for coping and managing daily stressors, and building emotional intelligence in young people with deafblindness and their caregivers in India. 

Slum and Rural Health Initiative, Nigeria – BRAVE Heart 

The Slum and Rural Health Initiative is a youth-led organization training influential community members to identify and manage common mental health disorders in Durumi and New Kuchingoro IDP camps in Nigeria. Through the BRAVE Heart project, they will provide group-based/interpersonal mental health literacy and psychosocial support to affected young people. 

Syrian American Medical Society (Jordan), Lebanon – The Happy Helping Hand* 

Syrian American Medical Society (Jordan) is bringing the proven Helping Hand (HH) free downloadable digital game to Lebanon. The project helps youth learn healthy coping strategies while also expanding their social support networks through peer connections. It will also test the effectiveness of delivering the HH program in a blended learning environment with the support of trained facilitators. 

The Governing Council of the University of Toronto, Uganda – Virtual reality intervention to improve mental health literacy among refugee youth* 

The University of Toronto’s Dr. Carmen Logie will pilot a multi-level, culturally relevant mental health literacy and stigma reduction project developed with and for refugee youth living in urban informal settlements in Uganda, the largest refugee-hosting nation in Sub-Saharan Africa. It includes training refugee youth peer navigators in Psychological First Aid and co-developing a culturally relevant virtual reality intervention and toolkit to increase mental health literacy. 

Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS  (UNYPA), Uganda – Stepping Stones with Children* 

 Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS, a youth-led organization, will adapt and pilot the Stepping Stones with Children (StStwC) program for youth aged 10 to 14 living with HIV in Uganda. The StStwC program covers topics such as psychosocial wellbeing, resilience, stigma, and preventing sexual abuse. Evaluation will be undertaken to see if the adapted version of StStwC can deliver the wide-ranging benefits of the original program more cost-effectively. 

Ylabs Studio Ltd., Rwanda – Tegura Ejo Heza 

Youth-led Ylabs Studio Ltd will build and test Tegura Ejo Heza (Prepare for a Better Tomorrow), a youth-driven and holistic digital learning and self-care platform aimed at increasing mental health literacy and access to psychosocial support for Rwandan youth (10-19 years) who are in and out of school. Modelled after YLabs Studio Ltd’s existing CyberRwanda platform, Tegura Ejo Heza will be co-designed and prototyped with the participation of youth from two urban youth centres using a human-centred design methodology.