Member States commit to stronger mental health services

WHO/Europe, 14 September 2021

Member States of the WHO European Region have endorsed a historic resolution committing governments to better and stronger public mental health services in the Region – the European Framework for Action on Mental Health 2021–2025.

The COVID-19 pandemic, besides having a significant impact on the mental health of people of all ages in our Region, has highlighted many pre-existing gaps in mental health services, reinforcing the need for governments to increase investments in public mental health moving forward.

In an effort to act on this need, ministers of health, government officials and policy-makers adopted the Framework for Action at the 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe.

“The uneven spending on mental health in the Region – ranging from 1 to 200 US dollars per capita – is coupled with inadequate use of resources,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “There are still too many government mental health hospitals, a relic from the past. That’s why the Framework calls for greater and better investment in mental health, by integrating mental health into primary care, supporting mental health workers and promoting their mental health literacy and awareness.”

The Framework calls for political commitment and leadership from Member States in promoting mental health as a critical area for public health systems, outlining specific actions to increase awareness of mental health issues, promote equitable access to services, mobilize investments and develop adequate mental health policies.

“The pandemic and its effects on our people’s mental health has opened an important window for us to act, and to do so now,” said Dr Natasha Azzopardi-Muscat, Director of the Division of Country Health Policies and Systems at WHO/Europe. “We have witnessed the devastating effects of school closures, isolation, joblessness, fear and anxiety. It is clear that mental health can no longer be an afterthought and that it needs to be at the heart of the recovery.”

The new Framework will be implemented through joint actions with partners. For this purpose, at the end of September, WHO/Europe will launch a new pan-European Mental Health Coalition, a network of institutions and individuals – including academics, international organizations and public and private organizations – from across the Region.

“The Coalition is a new platform for developing leadership and exchanging ideas and achievements. I ask you all to join, promote and make it your own, as a vehicle toward the mental well-being of our people,” said the Regional Director to the gathered leaders.

A new framework for action

The first of its kind, the Coalition is already tasked with 3 specific priorities including the creation of a mental health data lab, the building of resilience for children and adolescents, and supporting the mental health of older adults.

“We need to prioritize children, adolescents and older adults, based on clear evidence of how the pandemic has impacted them specifically,” Dr Kluge said.

The new pan-European Mental Health Coalition will be launched on 30 September at a hybrid event in Brussels with the attendance of Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of the Belgians. The launch will coincide with a call for interest in joining the Coalition.

Original article here.

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