Jorge Cardoso

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Jorge Cardoso was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Jorge Cardoso is spearheading a powerful movement to make comprehensive, preventive mental healthcare a reality and a norm in Colombia. Through his Positive Health Care approach, he founded the first Colombian Association of Bipolarity to support patients and their families to overcome bipolar disorder. Having experienced the painful and emotional effects of bipolar disorder himself, Jorge also distinguishes his work from others who possess a more traditional mental health model. Now, his Positive Health Care model has demonstrated a dramatically shortened and more long-lasting treatment time to stabilize bipolar patients, ranging between two weeks to eight weeks, versus the expected two years of treatment that conventional methods take.

Jorge’s mental health association was the first of its kind in Colombia, and the first to apply an “ecosystem” approach to treatment and recovery. Beyond just traditional individualized therapy, patients participate in support group sessions. Most notably, their families also engage in regular support groups with patients and with other families of patients. They learn to practice techniques that can help stabilize patients, neutralize manic episodes early on, and prevent relapses. Such an approach has led to impressive impact and has quickly attracted the attention and support of the mental health profession and the public Ministry of Health in Colombia in Jorge’s association. Jorge is now partnering with the health ministry to make Positive Health Care a nationwide policy and to formalize a relationship with the association.

Through the success of his model with bipolar disorder, Jorge is now seeking to influence the entire mental health field in Latin America. He is helping establish other associations and entities for the treatment of other mental health conditions and encourage them to adopt similar preventive approaches as his pioneer association has done, thereby changing attitudes towards a taboo subject area. Together he is mobilizing them into a powerful advocacy network, which successfully lobbied the Colombian legislature to pass a novel Health Care act, and seeking to build a global network that can support similar associations in other parts of Latin America, most notably in Argentina, Chile and Venezuela. By seeking to scale the Colombian association throughout the country while simultaneously emphasizing the work of the network, Jorge is producing a coalition with the potential to transform the mental health profession in Latin America and how the region perceives and deals with mental health.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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