WHO Executive Board to reflect on progress on mental health

The WHO Executive Board meeting will be held on January 24 to 29, 2022. The Executive Board is the key decision making body that meets ahead of the World Health Assembly (WHA); discussions there agree the agenda and resolutions to be considered for the WHA in May each year.

Mental health and substance use will be discussed under the agenda item on NCDs, “Political declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.” All the relevant information can be found here.

There is an excellent toolkit and comprehensive briefing from the NCDs Alliance that Members of the Global Mental Health Action Network, and others with an interest in mental health, might like to read. It includes a very comprehensive briefing on the key papers of relevance and suggested talking points.

For mental health, the key issues will be:

The progress report on mental health (page 57 onwards) – a helpful short update on what WHO has been doing in 2021 on mental health that can help the mental health community point to successful initiatives and actions to achieve change. See highlights below.

The intersectoral global action plan on epilepsy and other neurological disorders 2022–2031 (Annex 7, page 62 onwards) – this guides national governments in setting a standard approach, rooted in the Comprehensive Global Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030, and has six guiding principles:

  • People-centred primary health care and universal health care
  • Integrated approach to care across the life course
  • Evidence-informed policy and practice
  • Intersectoral action
  • Empowerment and involvement of persons with neurological disorders and their carers
  • Gender, equity and human rights

This document will help those working to improve support for those impacted by epilepsy and other neurological disorders. For example, see the International League Against Epilepsy for more information on this condition.

A new global alcohol strategy (Annex 8, page 100 onwards) – this guides national governments in setting a standard approach including recommending cross-governmental policies, improved monitoring, use of multi-stakeholder partnerships, and a focus on vulnerable populations. The more specific interventions to control alcohol use concern the purchasing process e.g. alcohol advertising bans, increased tax on alcohol, and restricted alcohol accessibility (hours of selling). This document will help those working to tackle alcohol addiction engage with their national governments and other stakeholders to help accelerate reforms.

A draft work plan for the Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2022-2025 (Annex 10, page 116 onwards) – this explains a series of activities that will be undertaken to: increase knowledge dissemination; engage People With Lived Experience (PWLE) and other stakeholders effectively; develop multi-stakeholder responses to NCDs; and to raise awareness of, and the build capacity of PWLE and other stakeholders to enable their meaningful participation in national NCD responses. This document is an important resource to help CSOs, and especially PWLE, identify ways to better influence policy and practice on NCDs and mental health and reduce stigma through work with WHO in the coming few years.

Find out more about the WHO’s progress report on mental health.

This document details recent work by WHO. Below are some of the highlights.

Regional Updates:

  • mental health policy for Andean countries was developed with support from the Secretariat and approved by the ministers of health of the six Andean countries.
  • In the Western Pacific Region, a total of 60 mental health promotion and prevention programmes have been developed and are now functioning, while nearly 70% of countries report having multisectoral mental health and psychosocial support coordination platforms in place for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, the implementation of a regional framework for action to scale up mental health is ongoing, with regular evaluation, and a mental health in schools package was developed to enable educators to better support students’ mental health in school settings.
  • In the South-East Asia Region, many countries are implementing suicide prevention programmes.
  • In the African Region, despite ongoing challenges in funding, several countries have developed new mental health plans or revised outdated laws.

Global highlights:

  • [Under the WHO Special Initiative] in 2021, Bangladesh, Jordan, Paraguay, the Philippines, Ukraine and Zimbabwe progressed from implementation to planning. Ministries of health took action to increase the inclusion of mental health care in universal health coverage, with a particular focus on community access to care through primary health care.
  • Digital mental health interventions have been successfully piloted in several countries.
  • WHO provided ongoing support to countries with level 3 and level 2 emergencies in 25 countries (e.g., Yemen, Sudan, Armenia, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Lebanon and other countries), including the implementation of the first global interagency rapid deployment mechanism for mental health and psychosocial support.
  • WHO continued its partnership with UNICEF in the 10-year Joint Programme on Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-being and Development of Children and Adolescents. WHO and UNICEF also collaborated to produce the Helping Adolescents Thrive Toolkit, a package of strategies to support the implementation of WHO’s guidelines on mental health promotive and preventive interventions for adolescents.
  • To improve impact in countries and through strengthened collaboration with UNICEF in the Joint Programme, a global report on developmental disabilities and a technical brief on nurturing care for children with developmental disabilities are being developed, with the active contribution of advocates and users.