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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora