Chris Underhill

Basic Needs
United Kingdom

BasicNeeds works with mentally ill people across 12 countries through a holistic model to address community mental health, poverty and stigma.

Focus: Health, Livelihoods, Social Inclusion
Geographic Area of Impact: Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, South Sudan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan,Vietnam, Laos, China
Model: Leveraged Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 75,018 (2013)
Annual Budget: £ 4 million (2013)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 1-2% (2013)

Mental illness has an enormous impact on the lives of the individuals who suffer as well as on their families and communities, yet the global response is highly inadequate. 40% of countries have no mental health policies and 25% have no mental health legislation. Moreover, mental health as a public health issue is very under-resourced. Almost a third of countries still do not have a specific budget for mental health. Furthermore, over 80% of people with mental illness in these countries resort to traditional healers, whose approaches can sometimes be brutal. Depressive diseases are projected to be the leading burden of disease worldwide by 2030.

Innovation and Activities
BasicNeeds works with mentally ill people across 12 countries in the developing world through a model for mental health and development that focuses on treatment and livelihoods through peer groups in local communities.

BasicNeeds’ vision is that people who have been disempowered by their experience of mental illness and poverty are empowered, through community-based, self-help support, to lead productive, positive lives. To this end, this has led to the development of the BasicNeeds Model for Mental Health and Development, which has been widely recognized as best practice in achieving an integrated community based approach.

Its cost-effective, comprehensive model engages the community to raise awareness and identify those in need, trains medical and volunteer workers to treat people in their own communities rather than in institutions, helps mentally ill people and their caregivers to create peer support and advocacy networks and provides opportunities for income generation or participation in productive work thereby enabling sustainable recoveries and reintegration into society.

Up to date, the BasicNeeds’ approach has had an impact on more than 600,000 primary (mentally ill, caregivers) and secondary (other family members) beneficiaries and it has enabled 94% of mentally ill people in its programmes to access treatment, of which 70% report reduced symptoms. Moreover, BasicNeeds has helped 79% of participants obtain either paid employment or productive, non-remunerative work.

The Entrepreneur
Chris Underhill has worked in development from the age of twenty-one, devoting his life to assisting marginalized people both overseas and the UK. He founded BasicNeeds in 2000 and is also a Founder of the WHO sponsored Global Forum on Community Mental Health. For his pioneering social entrepreneurship, Chris was made an MBE by HRH Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 and was awarded the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2013.