About Us

1.   Purpose Of This Document 10.  How To Join
2.   Introduction to IIMHL 11.  The IIMHL Leadership Exchange & Conference
3.   Background 12.  Examples of Current IIMHL Activities
4.   Participating IIMHL Countries 13.  Joining IIMHL
5.   International Change Management
14.  Appendix 1 - Past Exchanges
      2003 - Birmingham, England

      2004 - Washington, DC

      2005 - Wellington, New Zealand

      2006 - Edinburgh, Scotland

      2007 - Ottawa, Canada
      2009 - Brisbane, Australia
      2010 - Killarney, Ireland
      2011 - San Francisco,  US
      2013 - Auckland, New Zealand


6.   Vision, Mission & Goals
7.   Structure
8.   Benefits of Membership
9.   Who May Join

 1. Purpose Of This Document

This document is designed to give a brief overview of IIMHL people, agencies and activities to May 2013.


 2. Introduction to IIMHL

The International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) is a unique international collaborative that focuses on improving mental health and addictions services. IIMHL is a collaboration of eight countries: Australia, England, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, USA and Sweden.

IIMHL organises systems for international networking, innovation sharing and problem solving across countries and agencies. The overall aim is to provide better outcomes for people who use mental health and addiction services and their families.

The Leadership Exchange is a week-long learning event which is held every 16 months.

Knowledge transfer through IIMHL includes not only the Leadership Exchange, but also promotion of workshops/training/education, support of learning collaboratives and information dissemination between Exchanges.

IIDL for disability leaders is a key part of IIMHL’s activities.


 3. Background

National policies and directions have often been focused on clinical practices rather than mental health leadership as a key function to assure that services and supports are delivered in a way that consumers need and want. National perspectives such as those in Australia, Canada, England, the Republic of Ireland, NZ (New Zealand), Scotland, Sweden and the US (United States) realise that mental health leadership is just as vital to the success of community-based services as are effective clinical practices.

To succeed in moving science-based practices into the service provider environment will require leaders who have the ability to promote and support the rapid changes occurring in the delivery of mental health services.

The absence of resources and supports for key leaders in mental health hampers them, their organizations and communities from obtaining and adapting the skills and processes identified as most likely to support consumers to achieve recovery. With greater support for developing and demonstrating leadership, mental health leaders could develop services based on best practices and innovation and could mentor future leaders.


 4. Participating IIMHL Countries

IIMHL is a “Government-to-Government” initiative. It is funded by the eight participating Governments of each country. As of May 2013, Governments and national organizations recognizing the issues outlined above and wanting to promote mental health leadership are:

The National Mental Health Strategy
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) of the US
The Mental Health Directorate of the Ministry of Health New Zealand (MOHNZ)
The Scottish Executive (SE)
The Department of Health and Children , Ireland (DoHC)
The Department of Health and Ageing, Australia (DH&A Au)
The Ministry of Health and Canadian Mental Health Commission

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, Sweden


 5. International Change Management

The journey towards recovery focused, best practice mental health practices is an international movement. National policies and directions can be enhanced by changes occurring in other countries. The role of a leader in maintaining awareness of all changes is a daunting task. It often leaves leaders without a network for personal support or organizational assistance to advance changes needed within the environment.

IIMHL offers support and technical assistance to countries and their provider leaders by assisting leaders in adapting to rapid changes in the field and providing a support network through partnership with other leaders from around the world. IIMHL identifies and shares the best in managerial and operational practices together with access to information about developments that are occurring in other countries. IIMHL provides member countries with a linkage to international leadership development that supplements their national policies and service developments with an emphasis on evidence-based practices.


The following vision, mission and goals have been agreed by leaders of participating countries:

 6. Vision, Mission & Goals


IIMHL seeks a future where everyone with a mental illness / mental health problem and those who care for them have access to effective treatment and support from communities and providers who have the knowledge and competence to offer services that promote recovery.


To achieve its vision IIMHL provides an international infrastructure to identify and exchange information about effective leadership, management and operational practices in the delivery of mental health services. It encourages the development of organizational and management best practice within mental health services through collaborative and innovative arrangements among mental health leaders.


IIMHL aims to:

  • Provide a single international point of reference for key mental health leaders.
  • Strengthen workforce development and mentoring of mental health leaders.
  • Identify and disseminate best management and operational practices.
  • Foster innovation and creativity.
  • Expand the knowledge of:
    • Building community capacity.
    • Implementing best practices for consumer recovery.
    • Expanding methodologies for integration with other health and social systems.
  • Promote international collaboration and research.
  • Provide assistance to international organizations and sponsoring countries to assist low and middle income countries to increase their ability to operate community based recovery systems.


 7. Structure

As of January 2010, IIMHL has operated as a 501(c)(3) US non-profit corporation. It has a small Board of Directors currently comprising five former Sponsoring Countries Leaders Group (SCLG) members and who collectively have a long history with IIMHL. The Board has fiduciary responsibility for the fiscal and corporate functions and reviews the performance of IIMHL.

Each of the eight member countries identifies representatives to participate in the SCLG and pays a fee into a small fund to cover the administration and operations of IIMHL. The SCLG also includes the President/CEO of IIMHL.

The By-Laws for IIMHL specify the composition of the IIMHL SCLG and authorise the SCLG to choose the subject or theme for the Leadership Exchanges, and to provide suggestions and advice to the Board and President/CEO regarding the activities and expenditures of IIMHL.

Although a small SCLG has been established for IIDL, this is not currently recognised in the IIMHL By-Laws. The leadership of IIDL has recently seen a change, and the new leader intends to expand sponsorship and clarify the IIDL direction over the coming two years. At that end of that time, the Board and SCLG will be updated on the plans for IIDL, and if necessary any implications for IIMHL and its By-Laws can be considered.

A small “virtual” international IIMHL office is led by the President/CEO. A team of four part-time contractors provide administrative and operational support for IIMHL and IIDL, including support for the website and database. From IIMHL’s inception, Mental Health Corporations of America donated support for IIMHL book-keeping and auditing, however since 1 July 2012 IIMHL has entered an arrangement with an accounting firm to fulfill these functions.

Each sponsoring country nominates key people to liaise with IIMHL, and these people also contribute to the operation of IIMHL in various ways.


 8. Benefits of Membership

When leaders join IIMHL, they have access to a global network through:

  • The Leadership Exchange

  • Participation in research or other collaborative activities

  • Learning about innovations

  • Linking with international colleagues

  • Twice-monthly email bulletins (called IIMHL Update) which includes information on the latest Mental Health issues:

    • News

    • Research

    • Webinars on best practice

It is up to each leader to make the most of their learning experience by continuing connections with like leaders.

Join IIMHL Now!


 9. Who May Join?


Membership in IIMHL is via the CEO (or leader) of a mental health, substance abuse or disability provider organization. Membership enables participants to obtain all the benefits listed above.


Leaders from countries that do not belong to IIMHL can also join IIMHL to receive the IIMHL Update and other public information released by IIMHL. To date we have leaders from 37 other countries.


There is no direct cost to joining. In 2013, we have around 2000 members.


 10. How To Join

Each provider in the IIMHL-supporting countries can join IIMHL by completing an IIMHL Membership Record.

The only requirements are that:

  • You are the leader of an organization that provides services, funds, commissions services, or provides technical assistance in the field of mental health, substance abuse or disability.

  • You (as a key decision maker in your agency – the title may vary by country, e.g. CEO, Manager, Consumer, Clinician etc.) complete an annual Membership Record located on our website, which can be submitted online or mailed to us.

This Membership Record collects information about each organization in IIMHL. The information provided allows us to facilitate exchanges by matching up leaders with like interest and needs. It also assists to promote collaboration between international leaders.

The information we'd like to collect from you varies, depending on whether you are a:

  • Provider of mental health services, like a community mental health center or mental health trust, indigenous NGO or service user organization.

  • Funder or Non-Provider, like a government official, mental health commissioner, county administrator, or technical assistance organization.

  • Disability Leader, providing, planning or supporting services for people with learning (intellectual), sensory or physical disabilities.

Complete the Membership Record!


 11. The IIMHL Leadership Exchange

Each exchange occurs in a different region: Australia/New Zealand; North America, UK and the Republic of Ireland, with one of the countries hosting the two day Combined Meeting.

Since its inception in 2003, IIMHL has undertaken nine Leadership Exchanges:


In 2003, this was held in England with the Network Meeting in Birmingham.


In 2004, it was held in the US with the Network Meeting in Washington DC.


In 2005, the exchange was held in Australia and New Zealand with the Network Meeting in Wellington, NZ.


In 2006, the leadership exchange was held in the Republic of Ireland, England and Scotland with the Network Meeting in Edinburgh.


In 2007, the leadership exchange was held in the US and Canada with the Network Meeting in Ottawa.

6 In 2009, the Leadership Exchange was held in Australia and New Zealand with the Network Meeting held in Brisbane.
7 In 2010, the Leadership Exchange was held in Ireland with the Network Meeting held in Killarney.
8 In 2011, this was a gap year.
9 In 2012, the Leadership Exchange was held in The US and Canada with the Network Meeting held in San Francisco.
10 In 2013, the leadership Exchange was held in NZ and Australia with the Network Meeting held in Auckland.

The philosophy behind the IIMHL Leadership Exchange is that once key leaders are linked together, they have the opportunity to begin collaborating and building an international partnership. The aim is to build relationships and networks that are mutually helpful for leaders, organizations and countries. The benefits of such a collaborative effort will cascade down to all staff and consumers. These benefits could include:

  •  Joint programme and service development

  • Staff exchanges and sabbaticals

  • Sharing of managerial, operational and clinical expertise (e.g. in service evaluation)

  • Research

  • Peer consultation

The exchange process involves IIMHL with the regional countries (e.g. in 2011 the US and Canada) matching leaders. Leaders may be Government officials, provider organizations, planning and/or funding, researchers, leaders from indigenous or specific ethnic groups, family leaders or consumer leaders. The exchange starts with a two-day site visit and is followed with a two day meeting. Each exchange occurs in a different region: Australia/New Zealand; North America, UK and Republic of Ireland, with one of the countries hosting the two day combined meeting.

Our ninth Leadership Exchange in 2013 was held across New Zealand and Australia with site visits on March 4th - 5th followed by the combined meeting held in Auckland, New Zealand. IIDL was also an integral part of this Exchange.

The next Leadership Exchanges will be:

  • 9 – 13 June 2014: Republic of Ireland and Scotland with the combined meeting in England.

  • 21 – 25 September 2015: Canada and the US with combined meeting in Canada


Days 1 and 2: Site visits

Leaders who are visiting choose the theme based site visit they wish to attend. These matches are often return visits where visiting leaders are traveling to see leaders that they hosted in prior exchanges. Or they may be new or emerging leaders matched with more experienced leaders. The host and visitors jointly prepare a programme through prior email contact for the two day site visit that ensures that leaders’ (both host and visitor) expertise and interests are met.

The hosting leaders make their facilities and staff available for the visitors to observe and where possible participate in day to day activities. This programme has often included brief presentations by visiting leaders to the staff of the host organization. Many collaborative research projects have been initiated during a visit. Leaders who have been matched in prior exchanges have sometimes used these two day site visits to conduct peer consultation/assessment of a service.

Day 3: Travel

The third day of the Leadership Exchange is for travel from all of the host sites to the venue for the IIMHL combined meeting.

Day 4 and 5: IIMHL

Combined meeting

The two day site visit is followed by a two day combined meeting which both visitors and hosts attend. Both days look at how to continue to build collaboration between leaders of IIMHL’s sponsoring countries and how we can transfer knowledge and best practice rapidly among countries.

(Appendix 1 below outlines a brief description and summary of past exchanges)


 12. IIMHL Knowledge Exchange Activities

Over the years since its inception, IIMHL has encouraged each leader involved in the Leadership Exchange to make the most of their learning experience by continuing connections with like leaders in the months between the Exchanges. The intent is that the benefits of such a collaborative effort will cascade down to all staff and service users. Potential avenues for collaboration include joint programmes and service development, staff exchanges and sabbaticals, collaborative service evaluation, managerial, operational and clinical knowledge sharing, research and peer consultation.

During 2012, some of the matched leaders from previous theme-based Leadership Exchanges have continued to work together to share knowledge. Specifically, learning activities have continued in relation to: the Clinical Leaders Group (who are doing some joint research through Columbia University), the Workforce Collaborative that has continued to share information between countries, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services collaborative, the Wharerātā Group of indigenous leaders, Interrelate – the Service user Coalition, and the Disability Leadership.

The International Knowledge Exchange Network for Mental Health

This is a joint venture between the Mental Health Commission of Canada and IIMHL that was launched in July 2012 and aims to provide technological support for collaborative theme-based learning in between Exchanges. This will increase the opportunity for leaders to participate in shared learning irrespective of their attendance at the Leadership Exchanges. 

The IIMHL Update

The IIMHL Update is a twice-monthly email that includes information on the latest Mental Health and Disability:

  •  News

  • Research

  • Policy Documents

  • Webinars on best practice

Examples of key best practice documents shared via the Update in 2012 are:

  • Framework for Recovery-Oriented Practice (Australia)

  • Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada (Canada)

  • No Health Without Mental Health (England)

  • Preventing Suicide in England – A Cross-Government Outcomes Strategy to Save Lives (England)

  • Health Beginnings: Developing Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Services in New Zealand (New Zealand)

  • Whānau Ora: Transforming our futures (New Zealand)

  • Mental Health Strategy for Scotland 2012 – 2015 (Scotland)

  • Engaging Women in Trauma-Informed Peer Support: A Guidebook (USA)

  • National Suicide Strategy (USA)

  • Rising to the Challenge: The Mental Health and Addiction Service Development Plan 2012-2017 (New Zealand)


Since 2011, IIMHL has collaborated with the US National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare to offer a series of Webinars.  In 2012 these Webinars included:

  • Let’s Get Real: An Integrated Approach to Workforce Development (New Zealand)

  • Scotland’s Approach to Increase Rates of Diagnosis, Services and Outcomes for People with Dementia (Scotland)

  • There is More to Life than Services (England)

  • Key Learning from the “Implementing Recovery through Organisational Change” (ImROC) Project (England)

  • Early Intervention: Hope for Youth with Serious Mental Illness (Australia)

  • Wraparound Milwaukee: The Family Connection (USA)

  • Successful Transitions: from Youth to Adult (Canada)

  • Mental Health Services Italy (Italy)

“Make it so” newsletter for key leaders

Occasionally, IIMHL prepares a newsletter for key leaders at high levels within each country to rapidly share the current state of international knowledge about a specific topic of interest.

The last newsletter’s topic was trauma-informed care.

IIMHL-facilitated visits by subject experts

This is a mechanism through which leaders who have in-depth knowledge of a particular innovation or cost-effective service can present their expertise at low- or no-cost to the sponsoring region that is mid-way between hosting exchanges.

There were such two visits to Ireland, England and Scotland in 2012: one involving Ken Jue presenting information about the “InSHAPE” Program (an innovative and evidence-based approach to improving the physical health of service users) and one involving Denny Morrison from Netsmart Technologies presenting information about e-technologies.

Work to facilitate visits by subject experts to North America during 2013 also commenced during 2012.

Planning for the 2014 Leadership Exchange

Work commenced with Ireland, Scotland and England to identify a 2014 Leadership Exchange theme, a venue for the combined meeting, potential match sites and logistics.

Initial work with Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

Initial meetings were held with the OECD to share information about the two organisations and to consider how they might cooperate in the future. A particular focus for these discussions has been the work of Dr Harold Pincus and the IIMHL Clinical Leaders Group on outcome measures for mental health.


 13. Joining IIMHL

Please complete the online Membership Record at the link below. Once completed and submitted you and/or your organization will be added to the IIMHL distribution lists.

A twice-monthly IIMHL Update, together with any other information relevant to IIMHL activities, will be automatically sent to you at the email address detailed in your Membership Record.

Please email Erin Geaney at erin@iimhl.com for more information.


 14. Appendix 1


Purpose of this document

This document describes each of the nine Leadership Exchanges to date held in 2003 (UK), 2004 (USA & Canada), 2005 (New Zealand & Australia), 2006 (Scotland & UK), 2007 (Canada & USA) and 2009 (Australia & NZ), 2010 (Ireland & the UK), 2011 (US & Canada), 2012 (a gap year), 2013 (Australia & NZ).


The Leadership Exchange first occurred in Birmingham, UK in May 2003. It was the result of a plan developed by Mental Health Corporations of America, Inc. (MHCA) to link their leaders with colleagues in England. The aim was to share experiences in service development and innovation in order to improve the quality of services for consumers.

The Exchange was structured so that each leader would be placed at a site with a colleague for the first two days of the week, Monday and Tuesday. Then to support these exchanges all leaders would gather together to meet at a combined meeting. This meeting was divided into two sections:

  • On the first day, the country hosting the combined meeting would organize and schedule presentations and discussions on mental health trends and innovations within their country.
  • The second day was scheduled by IIMHL with the intent to share knowledge gained from the exchanges, encourage leaders to become actively involved with IIMHL projects and allow additional time to network.


1st IIMHL Leadership Exchange in England with Combined Meeting in Birmingham
June 2nd - 6th, 2003

Total attending IIMHL combined meeting in Birmingham: 84

Leaders were placed in various mental health service sites around England on Monday and Tuesday. On late Tuesday most leaders travelled to Birmingham, England for two and one-half days of meetings. NMHDU took on the responsibility for organizing the venue, the combined meeting in Birmingham and the schedule for the first day and a half. IIMHL planned the last day.


2nd IIMHL Leadership Exchange in USA with Combined Meeting in Washington, DC
May 16th - 21st, 2004

Total attending IIMHL combined meeting in Washington: 180

The schedule of the Leadership Exchange was slightly shifted. We had a full two days for visitors to be with their host, a full day of travel on Wednesday (to allow for the longer distances to be covered) and then two days for the combined meeting.

The meeting was scheduled jointly with MHCA’s Spring Quarterly Meeting.

IIMHL Steering Group Decisions Made in 2004

At the September 2004 IIMHL Steering Group meeting, the Steering Group adopted a rotation schedule for the IIMHL Leadership Exchange so that it would allow partnerships to return more often to each organization. The rotation is:

1 Exchanges throughout the UK with the combined meeting in Scotland.
2 Exchanges throughout North America with the combined meeting in Canada.
3 Exchanges throughout Australia and New Zealand with the combined meeting in Australia.


3rd IIMHL Leadership Exchange in Australia and New Zealand with Combined Meeting in Wellington, New Zealand
February 28th - March 4th, 2005

Total attending IIMHL combined meeting in Wellington: 189

The third IIMHL Leadership Exchange was the first where two countries hosted matches: Australia and New Zealand. The number of participants in matches and focus groups increased significantly from the prior year.

New areas of matches were between Pacific Island peoples and carer / family members. A theme that emerged during the past year was to focus on ethnic / cultural competencies especially within the African American and African Caribbean communities and Asian communities. Efforts will be made to include such communities in the future.


4th IIMHL Leadership Exchange in United Kingdom with Combined Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland
June 5th - 9th, 2006

Total attending IIMHL combined meeting in Edinburgh: 280

The schedule for the 4th IIMHL Leadership Exchange included visitors hosting colleagues in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland on 5th and 6th of June. On 7th June people travelled to the combined meeting in Edinburgh. This meeting commenced on 8th June with the 9th June being scheduled to include IIMHL activities.

This was the first time IIDL leaders met.


5th IIMHL Leadership Exchange and Combined Meeting in Ottawa, Canada
August 27th - 31st, 2007

Total attending IIMHL combined meeting in Ottawa: 450

The schedule for the 5th IIMHL Leadership Exchange included visitors hosting colleagues in US and Canada on 27th and 28th of August. On 29th August people travelled to the combined meeting in Ottawa. This Meeting commenced on 30th August and finished on the 31st.


6th IIMHL Leadership Exchange and Combined Meeting in Brisbane, Australia
March 2nd - 6th, 2009

Total attending IIMHL combined meeting in Brisbane: 306

The schedule for the 6th IIMHL Leadership Exchange included visitors hosting colleagues in Australia and New Zealand on 2nd and 3rd of March. On 4th March people travelled to the combined meeting in Brisbane. This Meeting commenced on 5th March and ended on the 6th.


7th IIMHL Leadership Exchange and Combined Meeting in Killarney, Ireland
April 19th - 20th, 2010

Total attending IIMHL combined meeting in Killarney: 460

The schedule for the 7th IIMHL Leadership Exchange included visitors hosting colleagues in Ireland on 19th and 20th of April. On 21st April, people travelled to the combined meeting in Killarney. This meeting commenced on 22nd April and ended on the 23rd.


8th IIMHL Leadership Exchange and Combined Meeting in San Francisco, US
September 12th - 16th, 2011

Total attending IIMHL combined meeting in San Francisco: 282

The schedule for the 8th IIMHL Leadership Exchange included visitors hosting colleagues in the US & Canada on the 13th and 13th of September. On 14th September people travelled to the combined meeting in San Francisco. This meeting commenced on 15th September and ended on the 16th.



9th IIMHL Leadership Exchange and Combined Meeting in Auckland, NZ
March 4th - 8th, 2013

Total attending IIMHL combined meeting in Auckland: 310
(Note: This includes 78 IIDL Members)

The schedule for the 8th IIMHL Leadership Exchange included visitors hosting colleagues in the US & Canada on the 13th and 13th of September. On 14th September people travelled to the combined meeting in San Francisco. This meeting commenced on 15th September and ended on the 16th.



The IIMHL Leadership Exchange has gained in popularity as a quality improvement process as evidenced by the increase in numbers attending.

Leaders in the participating countries have forged strong links with many groups collaborating on joint work aimed at improving mental health services for those people who use them.