Young people (aged 0-24) make up nearly half of the world’s population. The majority, 90%, live in low- and middle-income countries. And while young people may be consulted, they rarely have the opportunity to lead or share in decision-making on issues that affect them, including their mental health.
Around 75% of mental health challenges begin before age 24. Yet, current mental health approaches often don’t meet the specific needs of young people. That’s why we created Being — an international mental health initiative working toward a world where young people feel well and thrive. Being will fund research and youth-focused approaches to understand and address the mental wellbeing needs of young people aged 10-24 in 13 priority countries. Young people’s experiences are at the heart of Being’s work, and their lived experiences and needs are guiding our funding priorities and programming.
The initiative is hosted by Grand Challenges Canada, in partnership with Fondation Botnar, United for Global Mental Health, Global Affairs Canada, and The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care using UK aid through the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). We believe the voices, perspectives, and expertise of young people, including those with lived experience with mental health issues, should be centred in all aspects of the initiative and help create an ecosystem that drives positive and lasting change for their wellbeing.
Being’s Youth and Lived Experience Advisory Groups launched last month to promote further the participation of young people and people with lived experience in the initiative. These groups comprise youth and people with lived experience across Being’s 13 priority countries and beyond. They will bring their organizational expertise and knowledge spanning policy, advocacy, the arts, youth mental health service delivery, students, and more to support Being in prioritizing and including diverse perspectives throughout the initiative.
Meet the Advisors
Get to know the members of the Youth and Lived Experience Advisory Groups below and some of their stories here! Over the next year and beyond, both groups will convene and play a key role in Being’s programming. They’ll advise on Being’s funding, evaluation, and learning processes to ensure they are youth-friendly, community-centred and sustainable. As representatives of organizations committed to improving wellbeing, each advisor also serves as an ambassador of Being in their communities, amplifying the voices of those around them and ensuring that the initiative’s benefits can reach those that may benefit the most.
Being will spotlight individual members of the advisory groups throughout this week, so follow Being on social media to learn more. Being and its partners appreciate the advisors’ support and continued commitment to improving mental health and wellbeing for all.
To stay updated with all Being and mental health-related news at Grand Challenges Canada, sign-up for the Global Mental Health mailing list!
Aishwarya Sai Lakshmi, Youth Coordinator, citiesRISE, India
Aishwarya is a youth leader based out of Chennai who has a master’s in psychiatric social work and is pursuing a master’s in counselling psychology from the University of Madras. She is a physicist turned psychiatric social worker purely out of a passion for mental health who dreams of living in a world where mental health is not limited by stigma and lack of awareness.
Jackee (Jaclyn) Schess, CEO and Founder, Generation Mental Health Association, USA
Jackee Schess is a lived experience advocate and mental health researcher from New York, USA. Jackee is the Founder and CEO of Generation Mental Health, a youth-led non-profit empowering young people with lived experience of mental ill-health to be mental health advocates, researchers, and innovators. She recently completed an MA in Economics and will begin a Ph.D. in Health Policy in Fall 2023, pursuing her research interest in the social and political determinants of mental health and addiction. Jackee currently serves as a Research Assistant at Rutgers University, where she supports data analysis on mental health and substance use projects focusing on understanding disparities and achieving equity. In addition, she serves on the Lived Experience Council at Healthy Brains Global Initiative, where she co-coordinates the Communications and Advocacy workstream.
Jihad Bnimoussa, Founder, InspireCorp, Morocco
Jihad is a Moroccan American Psychologist and founder of InspireCorp, a mental health social enterprise in the MENA region specializing in building high-impact mental health prevention programs using a resilience approach. Her work reaches thousands of teachers, social workers, and 8 million youth in Morocco. She is a Stanford AMENDS Fellow and an Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leader, and has presented her work in UK Parliament, MISK Global Forum, TEDxYouth, and other international forums. Her work has been featured through various press outlets, including BBC radio, Women in Leadership Magazine, Medi1TV, Morocco World News and Hespress. You can find Jihad at jihadb.com or @jihadbnimoussa on Instagram.
Manvi Tiwari, Country Executive Committee, India, Global Mental Health Peer Network (GMHPN), India
Manvi Tiwari is a mental health activist and lived experience expert. She serves as the Country Executive of India at the Global Mental Health Peer Network (GMHPN). As a person with lived experience of mental health conditions herself, she actively works to advance the engagement and leadership of people with lived/living experience of mental health conditions or distress in mental health research, policy-making, and other spaces to make them individual-centric. She is part of Generation Unlimited India’s Young People’s Action Team at UNICEF. Manvi strongly advocates for and works to introduce intersectionality in global approaches to mental health and wellbeing. She also sits on the advisory board for Economist Impact and McPin’s Common Metrics in Mental Health Programme. Manvi is also currently studying Media and Communication at the University of Mumbai.
Oriana Ortiz, Opportunity Activator, Alianza Latinoamericana y del Caribe de asociaciones cristianas de jovenes, Mexico
Oriana was born in 1999 in Mexico. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations. Currently, and is studying for a Master’s Degree in Governance and Globalization, focusing on global governance. Since 2021, Oriana has worked as an Opportunity Activator in the Latin American and Caribbean YMCA (YMCA LAC) Regional Office, where she collaborates in designing and implementing regional programs and projects. Oriana co-designed and is co-supervising the implementation of the YMCA LAC regional mental health program in 4 countries of the region. In 2020, right after finishing her BA degree, Oriana started lecturing on identity and culture at the university level. She is one of the youngest faculty members in International Relations at the Anahuac Cancun University in Mexico. Oriana is an activist for Women’s Rights and Mental Health. She is passionate about youth empowerment and education. She also teaches History, English, Ethics and Civic Engagement at the High School level.
Puspita Alwi, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Sehat Jiwa, Indonesia
Puspita has a Bachelor of Psychology from the University of Indonesia and is pursuing her master’s degree, majoring in mental health community & disability. Puspita’s personal and professional experiences – gained through her work with IOM Indonesia, Integrated Services Center for Women and Children (P2TP2A) DKI Jakarta, and Division of Applied Social Psychology Research (DASPR UI) – have led her to understand better the vicious circle of mental health problems in Indonesia, and compelled her and her colleagues to create Sehat Jiwa Bahagia in 2018. Currently acting as Co-Founder and Director at Sehat Jiwa Bahagia, Puspita aims to change the narrative of mental health not as a ‘disease to be cured’, but as an investment for a better generation. Puspita is passionate about enhancing mental health conditions in Indonesia through a holistic approach. It has long been Puspita’s dream that adolescents in Indonesia can build a better, healthier future for themselves and their surroundings. Sehat Jiwa Bahagia is now a social enterprise devoted to preventive and promotional efforts on mental health through the provision of mental health education programs. One of the programs, Sehat Jiwa for School, has been featured in Voluntary National Review (VNR Indonesia 2021) as one of the best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the Uplink World Economic Forum selected their approach as one of the top innovations in the youth mental health challenge. As of 2022, They have reached 17,000 direct beneficiaries of Sehat Jiwa’s Wellbeing Curriculum.
Sweetbert M. Anselimus, Executive Director, Psychosocial Welfare Organization (PWO), Tanzania
Sweetbert is a 26 years old Tanzanian youth currently a member of the Being Youth Advisory Group at Grand Challenges Canada, an Executive Director for the Psychosocial Welfare Organization (PWO) based in Tanzania, and an Assistant Lecturer (Psychology, Inclusive Education and Research Methods) at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) in Tanzania. Sweetbert founded and has been Executive Director (ED) at PWO since 2019. As ED, he leads the team in designing, planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating projects that address the mental challenges of youths and vulnerable groups in Tanzania. As an academician and mental health activist in Tanzania, he has trained over 5000 students and youths on the psychology of adolescence, mental health, educational psychology, social psychology, and research methods. He worked as a Psychologist at the University of Dar es Salaam Counselling Unit in 2021 and 2022. In the role, he provided individual and group counselling services to students and staff of the university and coordinated counselling outreaches to vulnerable populations in Dar es Salaam. He also became an intern-psychologist at USAID Kizazi Kipya Project based in Arusha, Selian Hospital and Pour Your Heart Counselling and Psychotherapy Centre. Sweetbert is very enthusiastic about serving youths and vulnerable populations. Among great things, he co-authored an article titled “Democratizing Development Practices: Envisioning the Future of Student-led Humanitarian Aid” with Ryan Sutherland to motivate and inspire students and youths to take the lead in development practices worldwide.
Viet (Mason) Minh Trinh, Program Director, Lighthouse Social Enterprise, Vietnam
Viet (Mason) Trinh (he/him/his) is a distinguished young advocate and researcher focusing on LGBTIQ+ mental health and sexual health in the Asia Pacific region. He serves as Program Director at Lighthouse Social Enterprise, a leading civil-led society organization in LGBTIQ+ rights and health in Vietnam. His work adopts a person-centred approach, encompassing community engagement and outreach, capacity building, intervention design and delivery, and health policy lobbying. He is the current Chair of the LGBTIQ+ Mental Health Network in Vietnam. Mason works in close partnership with United Global Mental Health, the U.S. CDC, Global Fund, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Vietnam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control – Ministry of Health to advocate for the integration of mental health support into HIV/AIDS services relevant to young key populations and LGBTIQ+ youth. With interests in internalized stigma, intersectional identities, and integration services, he has amassed close to 15 regional and international presentations and peer-review scientific research publications.
Lived Experience Advisors
Anindya Shabrina, Supervisory Board, Resister Indonesia, Indonesia
Anindya Shabrina is a lawyer and human rights defender who combines strong writing and public campaigning skills to create campaigns and advocate for litigation and non-litigation in human rights cases that compel people to act. RESISTER INDONESIA represents several groups of marginalized people (women, LGBTQ+ people, and minorities) who face mental health issues and struggle to find affordable mental health care.
Cecilia Fofo, Program Assistant, Basic Needs Ghana, Ghana
Cecilia Fofo hasy with lived experience of bipolar affective disorder and a mental health advocate trained in early childhood development. She began her mental health advocacy career in 2018, a year after she was diagnosed with a mental health condition. BasicNeedsGhana is a non-governmental organization focusing on mental health and development, aiming to improve the lives of persons with mental health conditions and epilepsy through collaborations, capacity building, community-based mental health care, sustainable livelihood, as well as research and policy influence.
Dr. Fizza Yasmeen, Founder and CEO, Shining Star Vocational Training Institute, Pakistan
Dr. Yasmeen is the Founder and CEO of Shining Star Vocational Training Institute for vulnerable women of marginalized communities aiming to use skill training to prevent psychosocial disabilities. Previously, she was also CEO of Basic Needs Pakistan, which mobilized 300,000 people for mental well-being through a women’s economic empowerment project for women with psychosocial disabilities. 1,200 women with psychosocial disabilities successfully started generating income, boosting their self-esteem and giving them independence. As a psychiatrist, Dr. Yasmeen has hands-on experience working with several mental health institutes as a leader, working with underserved communities, primary care centers and clinics. Dr. Yasmeen is also a WHO Mental Health Gap Trainer and an Australian Mental Health First Aid trainer.
Issa Kamara, Chairman, Hagancatwright Organization, Sierra Leone
Issa Kamara is a youth activist and democracy ambassador. He is the chairman of Hagancatwright organization and has served in that capacity for more than eight years. Hagancatwright organization raises awareness about mental health and illicit drugs like Kush in Sierra Leone. The organization works with youth living in slums who engage in high-risk substance use.
Manasi Gupta, Founder and Executive Director, Huesofthemind Foundation, India
Manasi Gupta is a social entrepreneur and an engineer by profession. She is the founder of Huesofthemind Foundation, a UN SDSN member nonprofit organization to provide mental health services and has impacted 50,000+ beneficiaries with its initiatives. She is a mental health advocate and wants to make mental health resources more accessible, affordable, and available. Huesofthemind Foundation is a youth-led nonprofit initiative created to provide a safe space for everyone in need; it started in 2019 to facilitate conversations around mental health issues to build a community of empathetic people. Over the last three years, their team has grown to 150+ members. Their beneficiaries have termed the spaces ‘life changing’, which has helped impact 50,000+ beneficiaries.
Sankhulani Daka, CEO and Co-Founder, Let’s Talk Mental Health (LTMH), Zambia
Sankhulani Daka is the CEO and Co-Founder of Let’s Talk Mental Health (LTMH). His passion for mental health stems from his past struggles with mental health. From being bullied and experiencing anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. As someone who understands the effects of mental illness, he hopes to bring healing to people who have been through a traumatic/stressful experience. Let’s Talk Mental Health (LTMH) was built on the solid foundation to help anyone going through mental health struggles without regard to who they are or where they are from as long as they need the help. The organization was founded in November 2018. Two people from different parts of the world united for one purpose and one purpose only, to end mental health stigma and make mental health services readily accessible. The organization services young people through an online platform that has helped thousands of people and reached millions worldwide, with members in Bangladesh, Colombia, Dubai, India, the Philippines, the U.S.A, Spain, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Venant Mligo, Co-Founder and Chairperson, Mental Health Initiative and Youth Innovation Forum, Tanzania
Venant Mligo is co-founder and chairperson of the Mental Health Initiative and Youth Innovation Forum in Tanzania. This community-based civil organization promotes mental health and innovation among youth. He has also been a staff member at Mzumbe University in the Student’s Welfare Services Department for 12 years. Venant collaborates with Foundation for a Drug-Free World, providing youth with free substance abuse education and virtual Cognitive Behavioral Therapy services. Venant is an Awardee of the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Training in Substance Abuse Education, Prevention, and Treatment Support at Virginia Commonwealth University, U.S.A., a Fulbright program. Venant is a Global Drug Demand Reduction professional member-UNODC cohort II 2020 and is also an International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP) member. He has participated in national and international mental health programs, including the NIDA International Forum 2022. Venant has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Mzumbe University and a Diploma in Teaching from Morogoro Teachers Training College. He has substantial experience promoting youth and students’ welfare through inclusive engagement and is a changemaker for better youth wellbeing.