Rick Wolthusen

2019 Cheng Fellow

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 to empower local communities to take charge of their well-being and mental health.

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, encourage civil discourse about mental illness, and draft and help to implement mental health policies.

WHO has published dozens of interventions and guidelines stating what different stakeholders should do to ameliorate their own or the mental health of the people they care for. Neglected is the aspect of how they can actually achieve it. On The Move e.V. aims to overcome this obstacle of “how” through the development of a framework which specifically utilizes established human-centred design based approaches such as Design Thinking. It recognizes the communities as the central unit of social change. It also empowers communities to understand their most pressing mental health challenges, to create or identify the solutions that work best for them and to promote a social movement of joint responsibility for everybody´s mental health and well-being. This includes upholding the human rights of community members with lived mental illness experiences as well as efficiently utilizing existing and newly created mental health resources.

After having completed award winning projects, On The Move e.V.’s next step is the set-up of a Global Mental Health Alliance that draws from the expertise of various (inter)national stakeholders. The Alliance will develop a methodological handbook about the “how to implement”, which allows for the upscaling to other regions of Ghana and other developing countries. Finally, On The Move e.V. acknowledges that neither purely community-based nor institutionalized services will improve the uptake and the quality of mental health care provision. Rick believes that the integration of community-based services in institutional settings will unravel the full potential of mental health care. Additionally, this linking ensures holistic mental health promotion, prevention, therapy, rehabilitation, advocacy, and research.