Grand Challenges Canada


International partnership seeks to foster better post-COVID-19 world for youth by investing $4.4M CAD in 18 mental health innovations in low-and middle-income countries

London/Ottawa/Toronto, August 13, 2021—The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health challenges worldwide, yet only about 0.1% of global development assistance for health goes towards youth mental health—that’s just one dollar in every 1,000. In addition, 81% of all people with mental health challenges live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and 75% of all mental health conditions begin before people turn 24 years of age. On the occasion of the United Nations’ International Youth Day, the Global Mental Health program is announcing its first cohort of seed projects that address mental health literacy and/or provide youth-friendly services for under-served young people aged 10 to 24 living in LMICs.

The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care using UK Aid through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and Grand Challenges Canada (GCC) have partnered together through GCC’s Global Mental Health program to fund 18 innovations that enhance community-based mental health care for young people in 14 countries.

Young people who are themselves closest to the challenge 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.  Successful projects will serve as models that can be replicated, scaled, or provide lessons for other low-resource settings.

The Honourable Karina Gould, Canada’s Minister of International Development, said: “Poor mental health negatively impacts the social connections, sense of cultural belonging and emotional wellbeing in youth. It creates hardship by hindering access to educational opportunities and economic resources. That’s why Canada continues to be an international champion for mental health and wellbeing, including for youth. We recognize that strong partnerships like the ones we have through GCC’s Global Mental Health Program are critical to addressing health issues and scaling up mental health and social services globally.”

Dr. Val Snewin, Head of Global Health Research Partnerships at DHSC, added: “The DHSC Global Health Research team is delighted to be working with Global Affairs Canada to support Grand Challenges Canada and this innovative programme. Mental health, particularly among young people, is an underserved research area and a huge need globally, especially in low and middle income countries. The diverse seed projects receiving funding are each exciting initiatives in their own right, and have the potential for strengthening communities’ capacity for learning, cross-fertilisation and scale up of successful interventions in future.”

Jocelyn Mackie, Co-CEO of Grand Challenges Canada, further added: “Grand Challenges Canada is proud to host one of the largest portfolios of Global Mental Health innovation in the world, contributing $55.8 million CAD in 123 projects in 40 countries since 2011, along with providing them platform and accelerator support. Our focus is to support innovators who are closest to the world’s health challenges because they have the knowledge and are best positioned to develop lasting solutions. Case in point, 44% of the selected organization are led by youth who are best situated to come up with high-impact solutions.”

About the inaugural Global Mental Health youth seed projects

  • All projects demonstrate active youth engagement, with priority given to youth-led organizations in the review criteria.
  • 60% of project leads identify as female.
  • 15 of the innovating entities are based in LMICs, all in different countries save for four in India; one innovator is based in the United Kingdom and two are based in Canada.
  • All innovations are being implemented in LMICs, including 44% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 22% in South Asia, and 17% in the Middle East and North Africa region.
  • In terms of types of innovators, selected projects do not represent typical research award holders, but rather community-oriented organizations (notably, 78% are not-for-profits).
  • Delivery methods include training community leaders and/or members, upskilling or task-shifting to lay persons, and hosting mental health education sessions; about half are peer-to-peer models.
  • In contrast to traditional institutional approaches often associated with social exclusion and even human rights violations, funded projects are integrating mental health care into various settings including schools and universities, Internally Displaced Persons camps, juvenile correctional facilities, and community youth centres.
  • 1/3 of selected projects are at least partially digital, a feature the COVID-19 pandemic showed to be vital. Platforms range from online games to educational modules/toolkits to virtual support systems.
Innovator, Implementation Country – Project
Blue Banyan Consulting, India – Youth Awareness, Literacy and Self-Care Intervention Program Reinserta un Mexicano Asociación Civil, Mexico – Mental health radio program and workshops for juvenile offenders in Mexico
Child’s i Foundation, Uganda – Youth Wellbeing Champions Schizophrenia Research Foundation, India – Juveniles Accessing Mental Health Services
Eurasian Union of Adolescents and Youth Teenergizer, Kyrgyz Republic, Ukraine, & Kazakhstan – #ShareWeCare Sembe World, Cameroon – Toolkit to enhance youth-friendly mental health services in nine Boko Haram-affected communities
Free Yezidi Foundation, Iraq – Youth For HOPE Sense International India, India – Mental Health Awareness and Support to Children and Young Adults with Deafblindness and their Families
Green String Network (GSN), Kenya – Kumekucha Quest Slum and Rural Health Initiative, Nigeria – BRAVE Heart
Indian Law Society, India – ENGAGE Syrian American Medical Society (Jordan) Lebanon – The Happy Helping Hand
Lebanese American University, Lebanon –Yes to Emotions in Youth The Governing Council of the University of Toronto, Uganda – Virtual reality intervention to improve mental health literacy among refugee youth*
Make Music Matter Inc., Democratic Republic of the Congo – Healing in Harmony* Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS, Uganda – Stepping Stones with Children
Organización de los Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonía Colombiana (OIPAC), Colombia –Embracing the traditional and the Western: Indigenous youth’s pursuit to promote mental well-being Ylabs Studio Ltd, Rwanda – Tegura Ejo Heza
* Canada-based organizations funded by Global Affairs Canada

About NIHR
The mission of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. We do this by:

  • Funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;
  • Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
  • Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research;
  • Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;
  • Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;
  • Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle income countries.

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.

About Grand Challenges Canada
Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact®. Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners, Grand Challenges Canada funds innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The bold ideas Grand Challenges Canada supports integrate science and technology, social and business innovation—known as Integrated Innovation®.

One of the largest impact-first investors in Canada, Grand Challenges Canada has supported a pipeline of over 1,300 innovations in 106 countries. Grand Challenges Canada estimates that these innovations have the potential to save up to 1.78 million lives and improve up to 64 million lives by 2030.



Media contacts:
Laura Sore, Communications Manager, NIHR, ku.ca1718253517.rhin1718253517@eros1718253517.arua1718253517l1718253517
Douglas Chow, Senior Manager, Communications, Grand Challenges Canada, ac.se1718253517gnell1718253517ahcdn1718253517arg@w1718253517ohc.s1718253517alguo1718253517d1718253517