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The Global Mental Health Action Network Annual Meeting: 7 Key Take Aways

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The Global Mental Health Action Network Annual Meeting: 7 Key Take Aways


Last week The Global Mental Health Action Network held their virtual Annual Meeting. Open to their membership of over 1300 individuals from over 100 countries, the meeting was held between 2nd and 3rd June. 


It was a busy two days of panel events, workshops and networking. Here are some of the key take aways..


1. There is momentum in mental health 


The meeting opened with reflections on the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA) from Director of Mental Health for the WHO, Devora Kestel. The WHA saw the updated WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan (2021-2030) agreed by all member states. More than 50 member states spoke about mental health in statements; and including group statements over half of all member states expressed support for action on mental health. 


Member states formally: 

  • Requested support to advance the mental health agenda at country level. 
  • Highlighted the leading role, and the active and rapid support and technical guidance from the Secretariat to respond to mental health needs during COVID


Dr Tedros closed WHA with the following remarks “One day this pandemic will be over, but many of the psychological scars link to the pandemic will stay with us for a very long time. Paying attention to mental health will be central. Let's give mental health a serious priority


2. Impact of COVID-19 


A core theme emerging across all sessions has been the monumental impact of COVID-19 on mental health across the world. War Child and World Vision presented on research showing that 12% of children living in conflict-affected regions said that they were continuously feeling extremely sad and fearful, and could be at risk of developing moderate to severe mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. This is a 33% increase since before the pandemic. The report recommended that $1.4billion is needed to reach the 456 million children living in fragile and conflict-affected regions who are in need of mental health and psychosocial support. 


3. Champion youth led action 


The youth and child working group led the call for the importance of youth-led decision making for mental health, hosting two workshops to design a youth engagement group. The group will be led by and for young people who advocate for mental health across the world.


4. Sustaining momentum on MHPSS


The closing session saw Paul Bekkers from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, share gratitude for the Network’s advocacy stating that “the results are clear, mental health figured so prominently at WHA, it is partly due to your efforts,” and reaffirm the Dutch Government’s commitment to  the integration of MHPSS in emergency response. 


The momentum on MHPSS continues, with a session focusing on the follow up from the Copenhagen 2020 action plan hosted by MHPSS Collaborative. Representatives from UNICEF and WHO presented on the new MHPSS Minimum Service Package: a cross-sector comprehensive package of MHPSS interventions. The MSP aims to build on existing MHPSS standards and tools to create a single comprehensive easy to follow intersectoral package for ongoing protracted and new emergencies.


5. Opportunities for future advocacy 


There are many opportunities for mental health advocates to leverage the updated WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan (2021-2030). This document is the blueprint for global and national action on mental health until 2030 and was recently updated with an additional set of targets and indicators and options for implementation.  After all states agreed to the document at the World Health Assembly, advocates can now hold member states to account for delivering on the promises in the document. This includes an agreement to decriminalise suicide, a topic that was discussed in the meeting at the launch of a new Network working group on the topic.  


6. Lived experience must be at the heart of the global mental health community


In the closing session of the meeting we heard from Charlene Sunkel from the Global Mental Health Peer Network, who spoke on the important work the organization has been doing for years to ensure that the voices of people with lived experience of mental health conditions are at the heart of mental health policy. 


7. Upcoming mental health initiatives and events 


June will see the launch of many mental health initiatives and events including:

Ending AIDS: Side event to UNAIDS High Level Meeting (incl. Mental Health)

  • 7th June, 13:15-14:45 EST// 19:15-20:45 CET
  • Hosts: WHO
  • Register here

Mental Health and HIV: Side event to UNAIDS High Level Meeting

  • 8th June, 2pm BST // 3pm CET // 9am EST
  • Hosts: United for Global Mental Health 
  • Register here

Launch of WHO Guidance on community health services: Promoting person-centred and rights-based approaches

​​​​​​​Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing: Cope, Recover, Thrive

  • 11th June, 12 pm BST // 1pm CET // 7am EST
  • Hosts: Dutch International Mental Health Hub
  • Register here​​​​​​​

Mental health and psychosocial support in Francophone countries of Sub-Saharan Africa - Virtual International Conference in French & English

  • 14th and 15th June 
  • Hosts: Institute for Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Be-cause Health & partners
  • Register here

​​​​​​​Launch of WHO LIVE LIFE suicide prevention implementation manual




The Global Mental Health Action Network is an open community of mental health professionals who share a mission to protect the right to good mental health and work together to advocate to improve political and financial support for mental health across the world. You can join the network here