Ensuring the World Health Organisation Could Pivot to Support Mental Health During COVID-19

Halfway through a World Health Organisation project for early intervention in mental health we had to change direction when COVID-19 struck. We realised we could help with this and other future emergencies.


Just as the EQUIP project to scale mental health and psychosocial support within middle and low-income settings was at full pace, COVID-19 became a global issue. Prototyping was complete and pilots were being set up in seven different countries when social distancing came into force.

Our role was to deliver the learning management system (LMS) for mental health and psychosocial support specialists, and eventually helpers (volunteer support workers), but everything was based on delivering supervision and care face-to-face. This was now impossible in the face of COVID-19, and we did not know when it would end.


We worked with the project team to reprioritise quickly, with an objective of:

  1. Supporting those supervisors and helpers in the pilot groups already working with clients, and;
  2. Providing guidance and training available to any other services in a similar position, publicly and for free.

WHOEQUIPRemote.org - a set of public courses

Within just 10 days, two new courses had been released to help mental health service providers around the world to operate remotely at WHOEQUIPRemote.org, which will be helpful in this crisis and other similar emergencies.

For the seven countries of the EQUIP pilot, we reprioritised rapidly to focus on:

  • Guidance on supervising helpers remotely,
  • How to support clients remotely,
  • And soon, remote assessments of new helpers.

SystemSeed has been an outstanding partner to the EQUIP project and produced on time and to budget all expected deliverables.

Alison Schafer
Technical Officer
World Health Organisation

How we did it


EQUIP stands for Ensuring Quality In Psychological Support, and is a project from WHO (the World Health Organisation) in partnership with George Washington University and partly funded by USAID. Additional implementation partners include War Child, Health Right International, The Center for Victims of Torture, University of Washington, Socios En Salud, University of South Florida, Cities Rise, University of New South Wales, The Insititute for Family Health, Johns Hopkins University and the Noor Al Hussein Foundation Institute for Family Health.

ANU LMS simplicity and flexibility

All of the originally planned courses were to be delivered using a tailored version of ANU LMS, our Drupal-based LMS distribution. ANU has been designed to be simple to use, powerful, and adaptable, and this rapid change proved that is the case.

Inside a WHOEQUIPRemote.org public course

Agile approach & prioritisation

As a highly agile organisation ourselves, our team members were able to hold and push the pace of development and release for the new courses that were created and support the project owner in enabling other members of the project team to adopt the same approach.

It’s a normal part of our day-to-day work to prioritise, re-prioritise, and focus on delivering user-focused functionality, so even this type of dramatic project pivot is relatively easy for us to take on.

Early focus on users and prototyping

Highlighted comment from one of the new courses

Because of the extensive work on prototyping and user testing already carried out by the project team, they were able to make decisions quickly and we were able to implement them using ANU.

This included helping the academic team members to focus on delivering user-focused content, specifically for online delivery - which is very different from an academic paper.

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