Harry Minas and Jan-Paul Kwasik

WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan adopted by World Health Assembly

In late May, at the 66th World Health Assembly in Geneva, member states of the World Health Organization adopted the final draft of the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020. Click here to read a background document, prepared by the MGMH, on the Mental Health Action Plan within the non-commincable disease and post-2015 development context.

The Plan sets four major objectives;

  • Strengthen effective leadership and governance for mental health,
  • Provide comprehensive, integrated and responsive mental health and social care services in community-based settings,
  • Implement strategies for promotion and prevention in mental health and
  • Strengthen information systems, evidence and research for mental health. 

It is intended to provide a framework for national governments, development agencies, academic and research institutions, and civil society to restructure, reinvigorate and invest in their mental health services.

Broad, yet objective and measurable indicators and targets serve to focus development on key priorities such as increasing service coverage, updating mental health policies and laws, reducing rates of suicide, and improving data collection on core mental health indicators that can be used to evaluate levels of implementation, progress and impact.

Six cross-cutting principles and approaches will guide countries and have a strong focus on ensuring provision of quality services, and empowerment and protection of persons with mental disorders and psychosocial disabilities;

  • Universal health coverage,
  • Human rights,
  • Evidence-based practice,
  • Life-course approach,
  • Multisectoral approach and
  • Empowerment of persons with mental disorders and psychosocial disabilities.

The Plan is sensitive to local and cultural issues, requiring that it is adapted at regional level in order to take into account region-specific situations.

The background to the successful adoption of the Plan can be found here on the WHO website.

The Plan was adopted in the context of a continuing dialogue regarding the role of health in the post-2015 development agenda. The World Health Assembly also adopted the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013–2020, a resolution on disability mentioning mental health services, and development of the WHO Action Plan for the Prevention of Blindness and Visual Impairment 2014-2019. A discussion of a report on Health in the Post-2015 Development Agenda highlighted the need to reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases and ensuring universal health coverage and access.

The Movement for Global Mental Health Secretariat has produced a summary of the post-2015 agenda context, with a focus on mental health. Click here to read more...

Many MGMH members would have voted in the UN-sponsored online portal for mental health to be on the post-2015 agenda. This consultation process contributed to the Report of the Global Thematic Consultation on Health which did highlight mental health exclusively and in addition to other noncommunicable diseases as a key challenge and opportunity post-2015. 

Shortly after the World Health Assembly, the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons released their final report on the post-2015 development agenda. This addressed non-communicable diseases within the goal of “ensuring health lives”, however stopped short of highlighting mental health exclusively as a priority area of need. 

There remain opportunities for individual and institutional members of MGMH to ensure that mental health is part of the implementation strategies. The UN secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a consultation to gather critical analysis from civil society on the four post-2015 reports. The online consultation can be accessed at the website and the deadline for submissions on the reports is 12 July 2013. 

The 14th International Mental Health Conference will be held at Outrigger, Surfers Paradise on Monday the 5th and Tuesday the 6th of August 2013. Optional workshops will be held on Wednesday the 7th of August. The conference will focus on the complex mental health issues of Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Dementia. The human, social and economic consequences of mental health disorders and illness are great, and there is a growing realisation of the serious limitations of focusing solely on treatment and rehabilitation. Addressing these factors to improve mental health requires that many organisations from diverse sectors within the community recognise how they can and do contribute to the promotion of mental health and wellbeing. Featuring Australia and New Zealand's finest clinical practitioners, academics, and mental health experts, the conference will motivate and inspire professionals (and future professionals) by sharing information about; On-going research and findings New knowledge developments: implementation of programs and strategies. Latest evidence and guidelines on early diagnosis and successful patient management. New treatments. Research validation of early intervention strategies and treatments. Prevention Strategies: examine and review effectiveness Translational Research - from lab bench to the clinic and individual patient. Discussion on research and best practice Keynote addresses, submitted papers, workshops and case studies will examine how approaches and techniques can be incorporated into daily practise. The conference streams will focus on Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Dementia and address; Primary Interventions Promoting Recovery Preventing Relapse Policy Initiatives

For more information click here

Aplications are now being accepted for the 2013 International Mental Health Leadership Program (IMHLP)!

The Centre for International Mental Health at the University of Melbourne is now accepting applications for the 2013 International Mental Health Leadership Program. The program will be held in Melbourne, Australia and applicants both locally and internationally are encouraged to apply.

The objective of the iMHLP is to provide training in mental health systems development and leadership. The program includes teaching in the areas of International Mental Health Policy, Mental Health Systems Design, Mental Health Workforce Development, and Advocacy and Human Rights. The focus of the program is on the development of effective, appropriate and affordable mental health services. The program is designed to enable participants to constructively engage in, and to lead, policy and service development.

The goal of this 4-week program is to contribute to the development of effective mental health systems in LMIC’s through training and mentoring in leadership of those working in the mental health sector in those countries.

The specific objectives of the iMHLP are to:

  • Improve population mental health in LMICs and in post-conflict and post-disaster settings
  • Reduce mental illness-related disability
  • Improve social and economic participation by people with mental disorders
  • Enhance human rights protections for people with mental disorders and
  • Reduce poverty that is related to mental disorders.


The program provides an introduction to:

  • Mental health policy development and implementation
  • Mental health financing
  • Service design with a focus on community mental health services
  • Mental health workforce development
  • Advocacy and human rights
  • Mental health systems research
  • Knowledge Translation and Exchange

For more information about the iMHLP and how to apply please click here.

The 15th International Mental Health Conference will be held at the QT Hotel, Surfers Paradise from Monday 25th to Tuesday Aug 26th 2014. Optional workshops will be held on Wednesday the 27th of August.

The conference theme “Mental Health: Innovation | Integration | Early Intervention”, will focus on Suicide, Dementia, Depression, Personality Disorders and Trauma.

Keynote addresses, submitted papers, workshops and case studies will examine how approaches and techniques can be incorporated into daily practise. Featuring Australia and New Zealand's leading clinical practitioners, academics, and mental health experts, the conference will motivate and inspire professionals (and future professionals) by sharing information about;

  1.  Promotion and Prevention - examine and review effectiveness
  2.  Early Intervention - strategies and treatments
  3.  Innovative Programs  - designed to assist frontline workers and carers
  4.  Implementing Government Policy - what changes can we expect
  5. Recovery - current practice innovations
  6. Treatment and Medication Interventions - what the future looks like
  7.  New Technology - driver behind chang
  8. InInclusive Approaches: Multicultural, Indigenous, men, youth and older people

In this post, Amy Vee reminds us that we’ve known since Plato’s time of the importance of music to our lives and health.

A world-first survey of thousands of Australian doctors and medical students has revealed they are burnt-out, more likely to experience psychological distress and suicidal thoughts than the general community and are drinking too much alcohol.
beyondblue’s National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students found that medical students and young or female doctors are most at risk and identified that significant levels of stigma exist towards people with mental health problems. Some respondents also reported that they were bullied or experienced racism.

beyondblue Chairman The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC said the findings revealed the extent of doctors’ and medical students’ suffering and should act as an immediate rallying call for action.

“We conducted this survey because, given doctors and medical students are under immense pressure and deal regularly with pain and death, we know that the mental health of many of them is poor,” he said.

“This survey builds on our previous work in this area and we hope it also serves as a wake-up call to the Australian medical community that more must be done to tackle things such as over-work and discriminatory attitudes.”

beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO said more must be done not only to help doctors and students, but also patients.

“If doctors do not deal with the mental health issues they are experiencing, it can affect their ability to deliver the best care,” she said.

“We know doctors are distressed and think a lot about suicide, yet this survey indicates they are diagnosed with depression and anxiety at equal or lesser rates than the community.

“Given the high levels of stigma among doctors revealed by this survey, we think doctors are reluctant to admit they have a mental health problem, further highlighting the need for action.

“The survey also shows some doctors experience bullying and racism, which is completely unacceptable. I encourage all medical workplaces to investigate how to create a mentally healthy workplace.

The survey, which was conducted by Roy Morgan and completed by more than 14,000 doctors and medical students, is believed to be the first anywhere in the world to provide a mental health snapshot of such a large proportion of a country’s medical community.

For more information;
Read the full media release
Read the executive summary
Read the final report
Access beyondblue’s online learning modules
Click the link below
Some of the major findings

One in five medical students and one in 10 doctors had suicidal thoughts in the past year, compared with one in 45 people in the wider community, according to the report. More than four in 10 students and a quarter of doctors are highly likely to have a minor psychiatric disorder, like mild depression or mild anxiety
3.4% of doctors are experiencing very high psychological distress, much greater than the wider community
Oncologists are clearly the most psychologically distressed specialists while doctors who do not deal with patients (researchers, administrators, etc) think about suicide most often
Male doctors work longer hours (46 per week) and engage in more risky drinking but female doctors are more psychologically distressed and think about suicide more often
Young doctors work longer hours (50 per week on average), are far more psychologically distressed, think about suicide more and are more burnt-out than their older colleagues
Perceived stigma is rife with almost half of respondents thinking doctors are less likely to appoint doctors with a history of depression or anxiety and four in 10 agreeing that many doctors think less of doctors who have experienced depression or anxiety. 4.5% list bullying and 1.7% list racism as a cause of stress for them.

and as reported by The Guardian;