Public Mental Health

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Public Mental Health 

Mental disorder accounts for at least 20% of global disease burden due to a combination of high prevalence, most lifetime mental disorder arising before adulthood, and a broad range of impacts across health, education, employment, social relationships, crime, violence and stigma. Poor mental wellbeing has a similar broad range of impacts. Crises such as COVID-19 are likely to further increase risk of mental disorder, relapse of mental disorder and poor mental wellbeing. 

Effective public mental health (PMH) interventions exist to treat mental disorder, prevent associated impacts, prevent mental disorder from arising and promote mental wellbeing. Groups at higher risk of mental disorder and poor mental wellbeing require targeted approaches to prevent widening of inequalities. However, only a minority of those with mental disorder receive any treatment even in high income countries, provision of interventions to prevent associated impacts is even less, and provision of interventions to prevent mental disorder or promote mental wellbeing is negligible. The public mental health implementation gap has widened during COVID-19.


Public mental health involves a population approach to improve coverage, outcomes and coordination of PMH interventions. This supports efficient, equitable and sustainable reduction in mental disorder, promotion of population mental wellbeing and achievement of the UN SDG target of universal coverage by 2030. 

Public Mental Health (PMH) occupies a central place in WPA’s 2020-23 Action Plan. Objectives of WPA’s PMH Working Group include to:

  1. Improve implementation of PMH interventions in different countries by:

    • Raising awareness, value, acceptance and prioritisation of PMH in national health policies 

    • Supporting national assessments of PMH unmet need and required actions which then inform policy development and implementation

    • PMH training including through digital platforms

    • Integrated PMH approaches to disease management and prevention through engagement with primary and general health systems

  2. Work with willing countries to facilitate the above with identified funding

  3. Engage with other organizations on the PMH agenda including OECD, UN, World Bank and WHO

  4. Disseminate PMH relevant work including publications, presentations and training  

  5. Support a PMH approach in other areas of the 2020-23 Action Plan including child, adolescent and youth mental health, addressing co-morbidity, partnership with other organisations and capacity.


Examples of Public Mental Health Training Programmes