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

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Fake, Substandard Medicines Pose Global Challenge

So-called 'fake drugs' include expired medicines, those with manufacturing defects, and bogus tablets More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. 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.
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.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs