WHO initiative building coalition for system reforms COVID-19 recovery in Europe

September 2, 2020

Organization kicks off initiative as it views mental health as a key public health concern in the WHO European region, where more than 110 million people are living with some type of mental health issue.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced a new flagship initiative, “a mental health coalition to support system reforms and COVID-19 recovery” in Europe.

This was undertaken because of the organization’s recognition that “mental health is a key public health concern in the WHO European Region – over 110 million people are living with some kind of mental health condition, accounting for over 10% of the population.”

“The mental health flagship will bring together a broad coalition of mental health leaders, champions, service users and other partners to improve mental health policies and practices across the region,” the WHO said in a statement.

Considering the COVID-19 virus, focusing on mental health now is especially important given that the measures to prevent the virus from spreading, such as social distancing and quarantining, in addition to the dangerous working conditions for health care workers, are having a psychological impact on the population and exacerbate preexisting anxiety.

The WHO explained that the Mental Health Initiative will challenge “stigma and discrimination by improving mental health awareness and literacy among not only the public but also service providers and decision-makers.”

In addition, it will enhance access to “person-centered, rights-based mental health care in communities. This will expedite progress towards universal health coverage for people with mental health conditions and make the case for a parity of esteem between mental and physical health.”

The Mental Health initiative is one of 4 launched by the WHO. The other 3 priorities for WHO/Europe over the next 5 years are digital health and innovation, behavioral and cultural insights, and immunization.