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Launch of Being, a new mental health initiative for young people

Fondation Botnar

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Total funding of $35 million (CAD) to support work in 13 low- and middle-income countries 

25 October 2022 – Today, Fondation Botnar is pleased to announce the launch of BEING, an international mental health initiative, to fund and support research and innovative approaches that improve the mental wellbeing of young people aged 10 to 24 in low- and middle-income countries. The initiative is hosted by Grand Challenges Canada (GCC), in partnership with Fondation Botnar and United for Global Mental Health, whose expertise and worldwide network will support advocacy, stakeholder engagement and other vital functions, and with institutional support from Global Affairs Canada.

Globally, 75% of all mental health challenges begin before age 24, and almost 46,000 adolescents die from suicide every year, putting it among the top five causes of death for their age group. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), up to 90% of the mental health needs of young people are going unmet due to a lack of resources. 

The youngest member of BEING’s Council, Margianta Surahman Juhanda Dinata, of Emancipate Indonesia said: I am excited to join [BEING]. The cross-sector and cross-generational approach of this initiative will definitely bring great progress to youth participation in mental health.”

Stefan Germann, CEO of Fondation Botnar, said:Today, mental health challenges affect one in five children and adolescents worldwide; with the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and the recent rise in living costs, we risk this worsening, along with the prospects and hopes for our future generation to experience wellbeing and thrive. At Fondation Botnar, we are proud to have supported key interventions that prioritize young people’s mental health. Building on this experience and learning, we are thrilled to join such exceptional partners in this new collaborative effort, BEING, with and for young people to improve mental wellbeing through innovation and research that will create positive, lasting change in local communities and beyond.” 

BEING will engage governments and policymakers from low- and middle-income countries. Although the lost contribution to economies due to mental disorders that lead to disability or death among young people is estimated at nearly $390 billion a year, on average, only 2% of national health budgets is spent on mental health and often less than 1% in LMICs. In comparison, only 0.24% of international development assistance is dedicated to child- and family mental health support. 

Karlee Silver, Co-CEO of Grand Challenges Canada said: We need to invest in evidence-based and inclusive approaches to support mental health with young people worldwide”. “We know that lasting change will only happen when decisions are made by those living closest to the challenges to be overcome and approaches allowed to evolve. By supporting young people and their communities, BEING is designed to build on relationships, knowledge, expertise and the personal investment of local stakeholders in order to unlock sustainable and scalable solutions for youth mental health.” 

BEING will support research as well as community-based and young people-focused innovations in Romania, Tanzania, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Senegal, India, Morocco, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Vietnam – with the aim of creating supportive communities where young people have the means and agency to promote their wellbeing according to their needs. These initial priority countries were selected for their emerging urban environments – a special focus of interest for the initiative.

Members of the Council:

Sarah Kline, CEO & Co-Founder, United for Global Mental Health said: “Central to the mission of United for Global Mental Health is raising funds for mental health around the world and ensuring those funds are spent in ways that uphold human rights and provide effective support for all who need it.”

“We have been delighted to work over the past 18 months on the development and launch of BEING. It is a mental health initiative that is designed to improve the lives of millions of young people by supporting research and action at the country level and linking that up to drive change globally. We are very proud to be partnering with Fondation Botnar, Grand Challenges Canada, and a growing list of other organizations in this initiative.” 

Since 2011, as the host of the Global Mental Health program, we have invested $55.8 million (CAD) in 123 projects in 40 countries, providing them with platform and accelerator support,Co-CEO of GCC, Jocelyn Mackie. “Through that, we have learned much that will be useful in the development of BEING. We know it’s vital to support local innovators that are closest to the health challenges being addressed, to leverage the power of diverse partnerships among the public, private and nonprofit sectors, and to engage with young people whose experiences and perspectives can help drive and create the agenda.” 

Fondation Botnar and the co-founders of BEING invite participation from other potential partners. Institutional supporters to date include Global Affairs Canada. In the coming months, BEING will finalize a partnership with a partner based in an LMIC that will manage a research initiative for BEING over the course of the initiative. Details on how to apply to become a partner can be found here

The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada said: “Canada plays an active role in advancing momentum on global mental health, by bringing attention to it on global and domestic agendas, by helping decrease stigma, and by improving coordination of action. Through our support to GCCs Global Mental Health programming, our partnership with the Being initiative will bring vital focus on the mental health and wellbeing of young people. We are excited that GCC has been able to leverage our ongoing support into this new partnership with Fondation Botnar.”

Read more about the initiative here.

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About Grand Challenges Canada

Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact®. Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners, Grand Challenges Canada funds innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The bold ideas Grand Challenges Canada supports integrate science and technology, social and business innovation – known as Integrated Innovation®. One of the largest impact-first investors in Canada, Grand Challenges Canada has supported a pipeline of over 1,400 innovations in 96 countries. Grand Challenges Canada estimates that these innovations have the potential to save up to 1.78 million lives and improve up to 64 million lives by 2030. Grand Challenges Canada is hosted in Toronto at the Sandra Rotman Centre at the University Health Network.

For more information, visit:

About United For Global Mental Health (UGMH)

United for Global Mental Health works to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and increase support for mental health around the world with trusted partners. The United for Global Mental Health team is made up of diverse, passionate and knowledgeable individuals. By combining their extensive in-house expertise in advocacy, financing and campaigning with the unique insights of their many partners, they’re already making progress on their mission.

For more information, visit:

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