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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs