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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 and conflicts 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. Furthermore, the public mental health implementation gap has widened during COVID-19.


The WPA’s Public Mental Health Working Group defined public mental health as 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. 

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, WHO and and World Federation of Public Health Associations

  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.


Public Mental Health Training

Examples of Public Mental Health Training Programmes

The WPA has been involved in the development and dissemination of an international survey to explore public mental health understanding, practice, training, barriers and opportunities by different sectors. The survey is also being disseminated by European Psychiatric Association (EPA), World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA), World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) and GAMIAN-Europe.

Other WPA Supported Public Mental Health Activities

Members of the WPA Public Mental Health Working Group

  • Professor John Allan (Immediate Past President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists; Executive Director of Mental Health Alcohol and other Drugs Branch in Queensland Health, Australia)

  • Dr. Florence Kamayonza Baingana (WHO African Region Advisor, Mental Health and Substance)

  • Dr Jonathan Campion (chair) (Director for Public Mental Health, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, UK; Strategic and Clinical Codirector of Public Mental Health Implementation Centre, Royal College of Psychiatrists; Public Mental Health Advisor, WHO Europe; Cochair of Public Mental Health Working Group, World Federation of Public Health Associations; Honorary Professor of Public Mental Health, University of Cape Town, South Africa)

  • Professor Dr Geert Dom (Professor of Psychiatry, University of Antwerp, Belgium; Medical Director PC Multiversum, Boechout, Belgium; President, European Psychiatric Association; Immediate-past President of European Federation of Addiction Societies (EUFAS)

  • Professor Chris Dowrick (Emeritus Professor, University of Liverpool, UK; General Practitioner, Aintree Park Group Practice, Liverpool, UK; Professorial Research Fellow, University of Melbourne, Australia; Past Chair of World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA) Working Party for Mental Health)  

  • Professor Yueqin Huang (Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology; Director, Division of Social Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Institute of Mental Health, Peking University; President, Chinese Mental Health Journal; Vice President, China Disabled Persons’ Federation; Chair Commission of Health and Function, Rehabilitation International)

  • Dr Afzal Javed (President, World Psychiatric Association; Honorary Associate Clinical Professor, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, UK)

  • Professor Vinay Lakra (President, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists; Clinical Associate Professor, University of Melbourne; Divisional Director, Mental Health, Northern Health, Australia)

  • Sir Norman Lamb (Chair of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, UK)

  • Professor Santiago Levin (President of the Association of Argentinean Psychiatrists; Representative of Zone 5 at WPA)

  • Professor Crick Lund (Professor of Global Mental Health and Development in the King’s Global Health Institute, Health Services and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London; Professor in the Alan J. Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town)

  • Professor Sir Michael Marmot (Professor of Epidemiology at University College London; Director of the Institute of Health Equity, UCL Department of Epidemiology & Public Health)

  • Professor Shekhar Saxena (Professor of the Practice of Global Mental Health at the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health)

  • Professor Eliot Sorel (Clinical Professor of Global Health, Health Policy & Management and of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, George Washington University)

  • Professor Thomas Schulze (Chair and Director of the Institute of Psychiatric Phenomics and Genomics, Ludwig-Maximilans-University of Munich)

  • Dr Hanna Tu (Psychiatry Trainee at Catholic University of Louvain (KU Leuven), Leuven, Belgium)

  • Professor Pichet Udomratn (Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Prince of Songkla University in southern Thailand; Vice President of World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation; Zonal Representative of WPA for Zone 16)

  • Dr Mark van Ommeren (Public Mental Health Adviser at WHO) (Observer)

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