Mental Health Allyship

Past Incubatee (2015 – 2024) 

As an NGO, we believe in the empowerment of community members and in tailoring our activities to the needs of the local community. Our Brain Awareness activities helped us with these goals in Ghana and Kenya. After returning from Ghana and Kenya, NGO members also started the university group Brain Awareness at TU Dresden, many NGO members‘ alma mater. The university group, led by On The Move e.V. co-director Paul, took modules of Brain Awareness activities and delivered them in-person in local schools. Over the course of many months, the content and approach were iterated and tailored to the needs of our target groups. One of our last iterations was a Mental Health meets Design Thinking school workshop that was awared by Stiftung Bildung und Gesellschaft. The aim was always the same: to empower students and teachers regarding their mental wellbeing and to learn from and with them about mental health challenges and opportunities. Over time, our team realized that there was a need for more than what we could offer – building on our previous work, the idea of a low-threshold Mental Health First Aid course was born in 2018. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions on the implementation of our hands-on activities, a sub-team of Brain Awareness university group members, including three TU Dresden psychology students (Judith Herbers, Theresa Geithel, and Julia Kirsten) was formed. The goal of the sub-team was to develop a comprehensive Mental Health First Aid format that could be implemented online (during COVID-19) and in-person in the future. After many months of research, course design, and materials development, with numerous iterations and prototypes, the first public courses were launched in 2020. Given the success of the launch and the promising results of the first courses as well as the leadership of Julia, Theresa and Judith, the university group started to focus more on mental health first aid activities rather than on Brain Awareness activities alone. It renamed itself to AufeinanderAchten („care for each other“). AufeinanderAchten continued the university group’s and our NGO’s work to destigmatize mental illness through education. We also welcomed Judith, Theresa, and Julia to our NGO team, which made it easier for us to support their endeavors logistically, administratively, networking-wise, and content-wise.

At the same time, the initial AufeinanderAchten team grew quickly and now has more than 40 volunteers with different backgrounds, professions, and areas of expertise. They are all united by the idea that caring for each other is quite simple and everyone can help. Based on mental health first aid participants‘ feedback, the course was re-designed again and again; the result of AufeinanderAchten’s effort is the Mental Health Allyship course, a compact, low-threshold, free course that provides basic knowledge and skills for dealing with people with mental health conditions. Julia Kirsten, one of the initiators of the first iteration of the mental health allyship course, evaluated the Mental Health Allyship course as part of her Master thesis. Julia also has recorded a podcast episode in which she talks about the development of the mental health allyship course; give it a listen on YouTube. Our NGO also encouraged and supported the AufeinanderAchten team to submit scientific contributions about the award-winning Mental Health Allyship course to conferences and to apply for additional funding. As their portfolio, activities, and team grew, we also helped them to think through alternative organization structures (independent NGO versus social business). Being part of our NGO in this lengthy reorganization process gave AufeinanderAchten protected time and resources while still being able to brainstorm the next steps as a team. The AufeinanderAchten eventually decided to continue as an independent organization as of October 2023. We look forward to continuously supporting each other in the future and fulfilling our shared mission to empower community members with regard to mental health.  


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