Mental Health Friendly Cities

Join the “MHFC” Movement!

The time is now to build mental health friendly cities. The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed social service delivery systems and highlighted points of systemic fragility from which no one is excluded. Globally, we can expect a level of unparalleled need at a time of systemic depletion and precarity. Furthermore, the UN has added mental health outcomes to its Sustainable Development Goals, signaling the connectedness of mental health with broader international objectives. Mental health is central to human functioning and an essential building block for sustainable social and economic development. Now, more than ever, we need cooperation and partnership that builds bridges across sectors and disciplines to solve the mental health challenge.

That’s why citiesRISE is excited to introduce the Mental Health Friendly Cities (MHFC) initiative. citiesRISE has worked extensively over the past three years with young people, social entrepreneurs, NGOs, private sector partners, research experts, and system leaders to co-create the concept of Mental Health Friendly Cities to drive and measure local changes in mental health and well-being. Our MHFC approach applies the best of scientific evidence while also tapping into community lived experiences to create a systems-wide framework. By its nature, our model is flexible, agile, and able to respond quickly to changing events.

Evidence has shown that investment in young people is the key to the success of any mental health solution. However, current approaches to mental health typically lack an integrated understanding of the pressures and challenges that young people face. They struggle to address disparities, and often fail to reach marginalized populations. Young people hold important insights into what they need, the value of technology, and new strategies for mental health. MHFC harnesses the creativity and connectivity of young people and strengthens their capacity to collaborate across sectors and with senior leaders to drive significant systems change. 

We encourage global changemakers to join us in supporting and expanding the MHFC framework into hundreds of cities across the globe.

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What is the MHFC framework?

The MHFC framework serves as a roadmap that communities can use to achieve a certain level of transformation and success in improving mental health for its constituents, at which point their city can be deemed “mental health friendly.” 

This framework will enable all community stakeholders to maintain consistent processes as they identify, prioritize, and implement interventions across multiple sectors. It also provides an opportunity to drive intersectoral collaboration to achieve system level change that has been designed and is being powered by young people. 

The MHFC framework aims to create four primary paradigm shifts, which have been identified by consultation with experts, city level analysis, and “on the ground” work. They are:

Normalizing the narrative around mental health

Increasing access to care and support

Building social connectedness

Developing healthy environments

By implementing the MHFC framework, any city can ultimately gain a vibrant, new youth-led workforce for mental health that is integrated into existing public health, criminal justice, and social programs, and it will be armed with new models for reaching young people—particularly those from underserved communities. 

The MHFC framework is currently being pioneered by five cities: Nairobi, Chennai, Bogota, Seattle, and Sacramento. These cities are seeing significant positive change in their communities, including new activated youth networks, significant policy changes, new interventions in schools and colleges, increased awareness and de-stigmatization, engaged civic leadership, new linkages to care, and new connectedness and learning collaboratives between cities. We have found that, by activating new connections amongst entrepreneurs, youth, and leaders from the private, public, and philanthropic sectors, we can support systemic, intersectional change that improves mental health and well-being for diverse communities. 

We challenge all city leaders, investors, technology & data companies, thought partners, and global changemakers to be a part of the solution to one of the largest global challenges of our time. 

Partner with citiesRISE as we expand the MHFC movement into more cities and drive transformative change across the world.

Work with us

How we RISE

Young people do not want to be left behind in the mental health conversations as they understand their realities better. Let us continue supporting and listening to them for us to achieve mental health friendly cities.


Youth Leader, Nairobi

The youth of today are fighting their mental health battles in silence and shame. citiesRISE is finally bringing together stakeholders across sectors to ensure that these battles are no longer being fought in the shadows.

Samiya Nasim

Youth Leader and Co-Founder, LonePack

Young people have an unprecedented social and environmental awareness that has the potential to transform our society towards being more mental health friendly and sustainable. It begins and ends with Love.

Lian Zeitz

Global Youth Advocate, Director of Youth Engagement and Advocacy, citiesRISE

We look for big ideas that we can shift. In the case of citiesRISE, it is really shifting the idea of how all of us think about mental health. It’s something we think is very important, that the whole world shifts their thinking around mental health.

Rakesh Rajani

Vice President, Co-Impact

This is a very strategic investment. Young people are a key population. If we keep this population healthy, it is the future of our country and the investment in mental health will support outcomes across all aspects of life.

Simon Njuguna Kahonge

Director of Mental Health, MOH Kenya

The urgent priority now is to listen and be led by those who are experts in their own experience.

Kate Cornford


A mental health friendly city is a place where I see a lot of meaningful engagement of citizens with their environment, and also greater action on altruism and volunteering.

Prabha S. Chandra


Connecting with kindred spirits, like minds, like hearts on a common agenda. That is hopeful.

Jacqui Dyer

Black Thrive

It has been a major opportunity for the professional community that we can use our interest and capacity to produce positive developments in the way we work in partnership with citiesRISE.

Helen Hermann

President, World Psychiatric Association

We need cities that promote wellbeing - where it’s easy to eat well, do physical activity, and build mental health resilience. Policies matter.

Stefan Swartling Peterson

Chief of Health, UNICEF

We need better mental health services, for treatment and promotion, but most importantly we need a massive shift in focus towards prevention! Prevention starts at the age of adolescence and it is imperative that our communities support young people in order for them to grow into thriving adults.

Chantelle Booysen

Global Mental Health Advocate and Leader

This alliance provides us with an opportunity to learn about the experiences of large cities in the world that are taking joint actions, between different sectors, in order to develop strategies and spaces that are friendly to communities.

Luis Gonzalo Morales Sánchez

Secretary of Health, Bogota