Dr. Rick Wolthusen is an MPP candidate and McCloy Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. In 2013, Rick founded “On The Move e.V.”. Its vision is a world in which people deal openly, consciously, and competently with their own and with the mental health of others. In countries like the US and Germany, On The Move e.V. creates the public space to talk about mental health and to boost mental health resilience. On The Move e.V. also works with local partners and governments in Sub-Saharan countries such as Ghana or Kenya to destigmatize psychiatric diseases, build up mental health infrastructure, and encourage civil discourse about mental illness.
Some of the biggest obstacles in Ghana to access mental health treatment are the centralized hospital structure, the lack of government funding as well as the stigma attached to mental disorders. On The Move e.V. has established Centers for Mental Health locally. These centers offer prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation activities, and build on research. Moreover, rehabilitated patients from the center started the first mental health patient advisory board in Ghana. After working many years with local communities, Rick and his local partners have developed the concept of “Brain Spirit Desks”. The Brain Spirit Desks aims to increase access to mental health care in Ghana by training religious leaders in counseling, and further decreasing mental health stigma by working with the communities. As a Cheng Fellow, Rick will initially work on piloting this project. In the further course, the concept of Brain Spirit Desks will be tailored to the needs of communities in other regions before being upscaled. Brain Spirit Desks are another approach to decentralized mental health care – there is no health without mental health.