Rick Wolthusen

Meet the Community

Rick Wolthusen

“I empower community members around the globe to take care of themselves and each other.”

Rick Wolthusen, MD, MPP, studied medicine in Germany. As part of his medical school education and neuroscience research, he spent time in Boston (USA), Sydney (Australia), Aflao (Ghana), and Kisumu (Kenya). He founded the German NGO On The Move e.V., which empowers local communities to take care of their wellbeing and mental health. The NGO activities, which are based on neuroscience education, are award-winning. Rick is working with local and national governments on community mental health and global mental health challenges and legislation.

Before starting his psychiatry residency at Duke University in 2020, he studied a Master of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School as a McCloy Fellow. Rick is a member of multiple medical leadership and education tracks and was recently nominated as National Neuroscience Curriculum Fellow. In countries like the US and Germany, On The Move e.V. creates the public space to talk about mental health and 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 alleviate their own or the mental health of the people they care for. Neglected is the aspect of “how” they can achieve it.

Since his time as Cheng Fellow (and even before), Rick has aimed to understand how to overcome the obstacle of “how” by developing a framework that utilizes established human-centered design-based approaches such as Design Thinking. His approach recognizes the communities as the central unit of social change. It also empowers communities to understand their most pressing mental health challenges, create or identify the solutions that work best for them, and promote a social movement of joint responsibility for everybody’s mental health and wellbeing. 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 a healthy interaction of community-based services and institutional services will unravel the full potential of mental health care. Additionally, through a broadened understanding of mental health care delivery settings, holistic mental health promotion, prevention, therapy, rehabilitation, advocacy, and research will be ensured.