Community Mental Health Matters

Open: 22nd March, 2017 to 26th April, 2017 (midday)

About the initiative

Living in poverty increases the likelihood of developing a mental health problem; and the effects of mental health problems can increase poverty because often vulnerable households are unable to access or afford mental health care and may be unable to work as a result of their mental illness.

High levels of stigma and discrimination against people with mental health issues in Sub-Saharan Africa also exacerbate existing mental health issues as those affected become increasingly isolated or persecuted.

In many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are very few mental health specialists and most mental health care is provided only in one or two mental health facilities, normally in the capital city. Government funding for training of mental health professionals and provision of psychotropic drugs is non-existent or very limited.

Community care is a cost-effective way of delivering mental health services to a large underserved population in resource-poor settings, particularly in remote areas where many of the poorest live. There is also a growing body of evidence that outpatient care can be more effective at helping patients to manage or recover from mental illnesses, compared to staying in a health facility for treatment. Outpatient care ideally includes supporting the patient to help themselves and following up with them regularly to ensure they are taking any prescribed drugs. Community health workers and volunteers can all play an important role in delivering services to those with chronic conditions such as minor mental illnesses, for example identifying minor depression and providing education, counselling and adherence support. Communities also play a key role in educating to prevent and detect mental issues early before they increase in severity.

Our Community Mental Health Matters initiative offers funding for existing and emerging mental health activities in Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

We welcome applications from organisations working in the following areas of work:

  • Improving the health and wellbeing of vulnerable and disadvantaged people
  • Demonstrated successful experience in advancing mental health care in community settings in Sub-Saharan Africa

Funding available

We expect to make six grants with £1.8 million total funding available through this initiative. Funding requests are welcome up to the value of £300,000 each.

We are interested in funding projects which use at least one of the following approaches:

  • Supporting the establishment of and/or building the capacity of grassroots, community-led mental health self-help groups or user groups, particularly in rural hard to reach contexts where there is little or no access to formal mental health care, or it is unaffordable.
  • Integrating mental health care into the community in low resource settings to address common and more easily-treated issues such as minor depression and anxiety, many of which can be treated effectively without drugs.
  • Training of community health workers to facilitate self-help groups and recognise mental health issues in the community, referring serious cases where referral facilities are available.
  • Tackling stigma and discrimination about mental health in the community, and/or amongst health workers.
  • Community approaches to mental health which embrace local cultures and values.
  • Approaches which empower people with lived experience of mental health issues to participate and advocate for improved mental health care in their community and country. Innovating new, community-led approaches to supporting mental health, or taking proven community mental health approaches to scale.


Organisations applying to this initiative must meet Comic Relief’s general eligibility requirements. Please read our FAQs and grant-making policies. In addition:

  • Activities should take place in Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Zambia or Zimbabwe.
  • Applicants must have demonstrated successful experience in advancing mental health care in community settings in Sub-Saharan Africa. Approaches should be in line with the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 and national policies and priorities in the relevant country, where these are in place and appropriate to community mental health needs.
  • Applicants may be UK based organisations working in partnership with a local organisation leading the delivery of the project, or Africa-based organisations leading implementation directly. There is no minimum grant size but the maximum grant size available will be £300,000. Grant proposals must be for a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of 36 months.
  • There is no minimum / maximum turnover for applicant organisations

Key dates and process

The application process will be in one stage and we will be open for proposals from 22nd March and close at midday on 26th April 2017.

Once we receive your proposal, we’ll initially check whether your organisation and proposal are eligible for funding under this initiative and then shortlist the strongest proposals to go through for a full assessment. We’ll aim to notify all applicants of our decisions at this stage in June 2017. If your proposal is unsuccessful at this stage, we’ll be unable to provide any additional feedback due to our limited resources.

Assessments on the proposals which pass this stage will take place over June-July 2017 and final decisions will be made by our Grants Committee and Trustees.

We aim to inform all applicants of the final decision in October 2017. If your proposal is unsuccessful at this stage we’ll write to you explaining the reasons why and may offer further feedback by phone.

All applicants will be required to submit a monitoring, evaluation & learning plan. For organisations based outside of the UK we will also request additional documents to support our compliance checks of your organisation, such as registration documents, evidence of trustees and accountant qualifications.

Relevant documents/links

Our grants policies
Our grants principles
Grants FAQs
Helpful documents and resources

Apply now

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