As the triennium reached its final months, the world entered a period of turmoil and change with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. WPA quickly responded, bringing together the strength of our member networks as well as access to experts and tools to produce a variety of activities and plans. Thanks to the shared engagement of President-elect Afzal Javed, these programs will continue into the next triennium.
Mobilizing for the emergency response began in March 2020 with establishment of the Emergency Response Executive Group. Shortly after, an Advisory Committee for Responses to Emergencies (ACRE) brought together the leaders of several interested Member Societies to facilitate practical and concrete aid to Member Societies in need. The group is fostering education, information collection and the development of local, national and international strategies to cope with the mental health consequences of emergencies. In April 2020, we established an emergency assistance fund and in May we provided funding to colleagues in Nepal for outreach services to support child and adolescent mental health. Since then we also provided and enabled aid in cash and in-kind for personal protective equipment in Ukraine and other parts of the world, and other initiatives such as support for transport in services that had lost access through diversion of resources during the emergency.
As of October 2020, ACRE has met five times by video-conference and overseen the establishment and work of two expert sub-groups. One sub-group is supporting telepsychiatry and eMental health initiatives, including the development of an international guide and webinar and the capacity of advice to individual Member Societies, and the other providing information, education and support for services caring for people with mental ill-health. ACRE has begun to function as a coordinating body for the assessment of emergency needs and the mobilisation of resources and direct support through a range of Member Societies and partners.
Working with Professor Afzal Javed and Professor Norman Sartorius as the Emergency Response Executive Group, we have ensured the development of a set of procedures to facilitate the continuation of this work where needed in the future. Indeed, with the establishment of ACRE, member societies will be on standby to activate these procedures when they are again, inevitably, needed – with the more well-resourced among them able to offer further support to those with less.