Peer Support Networks

If one looks at the astonishing strides made by HIV-AIDS networks (such as the highly effective Network of People Living With HIV-AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN)), with their focus on high profile advocacy work, as well as the ‘political pressure’ exerted on decision makers and key development community stakeholders, then it is not difficult to start thinking about whether or not mental health would also be well served with similar forward-thinking and well focused groups. At the time of writing, peer support networks (or even, for that matter, user and carer led organisations) are few and far between for those suffering from mental health conditions in low and middle income settings. This has tended to result in the fact that it is often down to NGOs and progressive donors to raise awareness about the prevalence and impact of even common mental disorders such as depression and alcohol abuse. While this is admirable, it also leads (often) to the conclusion that those who suffer most from mental illness remain without a voice through which to advocate for their basic human right to health care. The time will fast some when civil society will need to support the development of these key mental health support groups, surely?