News / Health

New WHO Report Focuses on Mental Health

Resident of Half Way Home, a government-run home for the mentally ill located inside a mental health hospital premise, sits on her bed in Mulleriyawa, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 2, 2013.
Resident of Half Way Home, a government-run home for the mentally ill located inside a mental health hospital premise, sits on her bed in Mulleriyawa, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 2, 2013.
Lisa Schlein
A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) argues that humanitarian emergencies offer opportunities for improving peoples’ lives through improving mental health services.  The report is being released on World Humanitarian Day, August 19, in hopes of ensuring that those faced with emergencies can recover and rebuild their lives even better than before.  

When conflicts and natural disasters trigger mental health problems, psychological help is needed, but usually is not available.  Humanitarian agencies work hard to help people recover.   But WHO found much of the support offered tends to be of short duration.   
 
Mark Van Ommeren of WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse noted that many people affected by catastrophic events have long-term problems and are in need of long-term help.  He said emergencies present an enormous opportunity to build back better health systems, especially mental health systems, which, according to WHO, are virtually nonexistant in low-and-middle income countries.
 
“Those systems would be for all people in need - people with new mental health problems and people with pre-existing mental health problems," Van Ommeren explained. "That is important because in many areas of the world, as you know, there are no mental health services.  So, this is an opening.  This is also very important because societies that go through major emergencies need to recover and mental health is essential for recovery of these events for the functioning of society, for the resilience of society.”  
 
WHO's 110-page report provides guidance for strengthening mental health systems after emergencies.  It focuses on 10 cases, where countries have taken advantage of this opportunity.
 
One nation the report cites is Sri Lanka.  In the aftermath of the catastrophic 2004 Tsunami, it said the government created a new national mental health policy, which extends to most parts of the country.
 
Another example is that of Iraq.  Dr. Van Ommeren said it is particularly appropriate to focus on Iraq since the WHO report is being issued on World Humanitarian Day, marking the 10th anniversary of the bombing of United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, which killed at least 22 people including UN Special Representative in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.  
 
“Iraq since 2004, has made substantial progress towards the creation of a mental health system-meaning that, making sure that people have access to mental health care," he said. "So, now over all these years about half of all the general practitioners--you can imagine it is a big country, there are a lot of general practitioners--about half of them have been trained in mental health.  That brings mental health care closer to the people.  Before that, most mental health care was only available in big cities, in asylums.  The situation was much more negative. Now, it is more positive.”  
 
Other positive case studies include Afghanistan, Burundi, Aceh Province in Indonesia, Jordan, Kosovo, Somalia, Timor-Leste, and West Bank and Gaza Strip.  
 
WHO hopes the report will help policymakers reform their mental health systems, especially those susceptible to future emergencies.  Already this year, the world is grappling with crises in conflict-ridden Syria, in Mali and the Central African Republic and there has been major flooding in parts of the Americas, Africa, and Asia.
 

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid