Ashoka Fellow
United Kingdom,
Fellow Since 2012
Basic Needs


This profile was prepared when Chris Underhill was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Chris has pioneered a model for mental healthcare in the developing world that focuses on treatment and livelihood development through peer groups in local communities. He is changing the landscape of mental healthcare provision in countries where mental health issues are ignored or stigmatized and where there are few resources to provide mental health services.

After launching and building an organization to address the needs and treatment of the disabled in the developing world, Chris honed his approach to focus on the even more marginalized population of those with mental illness. Through BasicNeeds, he built an approach to treating and supporting the mentally ill that is systems-changing because it is based on leveraging existing resources and skills in the community, supporting the mentally ill and their families in advocating for themselves and their needs, and developing evidence to change government policy to better meet the needs of the mentally ill.

Through his work with BasicNeeds, Chris has created a new movement out of participatory rights-based approaches to mental health. Rather than provide services directly, BasicNeeds mobilizes psychiatric clinicians from the public sector and health volunteers from the community to coordinate weekly or monthly mental health clinics in outpatient health centers and follow-up care in people’s homes and neighborhoods. BasicNeeds enables the mentally ill to participate fully in society and earn a living so that they are no longer dependent on those around them.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

More For You