The WHO Pan-European Coalition is paving the way for a new direction in mental health and wellbeing

The WHO Pan-European Coalition is paving the way for a new direction in mental health and wellbeing

“The old normal once meant that mental health issues were swept under the rug. The new normal makes psychosocial well-being a central principle in our societies,” said Mr. Alar Karis, President of Estonia, in a recorded speech at the opening of the second meeting of the Pan-European Mental Health Coalition. .

The longing for this new normal was evident throughout the 2-day event held in Ankara on November 23-24, 2022 in conjunction with the annual Türkiye Conference on the Social Inclusion Project of people with mental disabilities.

Informing and transforming mental health

Subtitled “Local Action, Regional Transformation”, the second meeting of the Coalition was opened with a piano performance of JS Bach by Mr. Buğra Çankır, Türkiye’s first autistic doctoral student, accompanied by the University Orchestra of Music and Fine Arts of Ankara.

The more than 300 in-person participants were joined by almost 200 online participants, including people with lived experience of mental health issues and representatives from governments, civil society, academic institutions and organizations international.

They heard about local efforts across the WHO European Region to protect people’s right to mental health and well-being – such as actions in Norway and Malta to protect mental health in workplaces. work, and lessons learned from responding to the mental health needs of those affected. by the war in Ukraine.

“We cannot rely on traditional modes of mental health care, which isolate people with mental disorders. We cannot go back to reactive and ad hoc policies and initiatives that are underfunded and limited in scope due to stigma,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, who spoke via video statement during a mission to Ukraine.

Inclusion at the heart of effective action

The theme of all sessions was to better include those who suffer most from inaction, such as those living with mental health problems and psychosocial disabilities, as well as older adults and young people, who are traditionally excluded from decision making. on mental health.

Young people, including Mr. Dion Ras and Ms. Inês Mália Sarmento, expanded on the demands they made during Mental Health Week in Athens, Greece. “We, the young members of the Pan-European Mental Health Coalition, want to co-produce a framework for youth participation,” Ras said in their joint address. “We want to share best practices. We want to share what we’ve learned works and what we’ve learned doesn’t – because we are the ones implementing your plans for youth engagement.

The Coalition’s second meeting coincided with the third annual conference on the Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Project, an initiative of the Government of Turkey co-funded by the European Union and WHO. The project aims to make mental health services less stigmatizing for people with mental disorders and psychosocial disabilities, and to better promote recovery and community living.

The project’s annual conference was organized alongside the Coalition meeting because it offers a particularly powerful example of cooperation between governments and international organizations, which is at the heart of the Coalition.

“The Ministry of Health looks forward to continuing to use a human-centered approach based on sustainability, developing and delivering the most effective services possible,” said Dr. Tolga Tolunay, Deputy Minister of Health from Türkiye. “We put our services into practice in accordance with the principles of the Coalition.

Next steps

Overall, the meeting revealed that the WHO European Region has countless resources and tools to support mental health and wellbeing, but they require greater investment and adaptation to local contexts. specific.

In the new year, the Coalition will focus on bringing these resources and tools to light, including systematically mapping existing mental health policies and evidence-based tools in the Region.

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