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Public Mental Health

Home / Special Interest Group / Public Mental Health

Image by Nathaniel Sison

Welcome to the webpage of the WPA Public Mental Health Special Interest Group!

This Group continues the activities of the previous WPA Public Mental Health Working Group.  


This webpage is divided into the following sections:

Public Mental Health Special Interest Group Officers

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Chair: Dr. Jonathan Campion

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 Section, European Psychiatric Association; 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


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Co-Chair: Prof. Debasish Basu

Professor and Head, Department of Psychiatry, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India; Director, WPA Collaborating Centre Chandigarh; Member, World Federation of Mental Health Asia Pacific Advisory Committee; Founding Editor, World Social Psychiatry (official journal of the World Association of Social Psychiatry); President-Elect, Indian Association for Social Psychiatry; International Distinguished Fellow, American Psychiatric Association


Public Mental Health Special Interest Group membership list can be found here.

Public Mental Health Background

Mental health conditions account for a large proportion of global disease burden due to a combination of high prevalence, most lifetime mental health conditions arising before adulthood, and a broad range of impacts across health including suicide, education, employment, social relationships, crime, violence and stigma. Poor mental wellbeing has a similar broad range of impacts. Crises such as pandemics and conflict further increase risk of mental health conditions, their relapse and poor mental wellbeing. 

Effective public mental health (PMH) interventions exist to treat mental health conditions, prevent associated impacts, prevent mental health conditions from arising and promote mental wellbeing. Groups at higher risk of mental health conditions and poor mental wellbeing require targeted approaches to prevent widening of inequalities.


Globally however, only a minority of those with mental health conditions receive any treatment with far less coverage in low- and middle-income countries. Provision of interventions to prevent associated impacts is even lower, and provision of interventions to prevent mental health conditions or promote mental wellbeing is negligible. The public mental health implementation gap breaches the right to health and results in population scale preventable suffering, broad impacts and associated economic costs. Various reasons account for the gap including insufficient funding with only 2% of global health expenditure allocated to mental health (WHO, 2021).

Defining Public Mental Health 

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 health conditions, promotion of population mental wellbeing and achievement of the UN SDG target of universal coverage.

Public Mental Health and WPA Action Plans

Public mental health (PMH) occupied a central place in the WPA 2020-2023 Action Plan, which was supported by a Public Mental Health Working Group. The WPA’s 2023-26 Action Plan is also closely aligned with a public mental health approach and highlights that over the past decade, the WPA has broadened its mission to include the prevention of mental health conditions and promotion of good mental health. 

Activities of WPA’s Public Mental Health Special Interest Group

The WPA PMH SIG will support the WPA’s 2023-26 Action Plan and continue the work of the WPA PMH Working Group to support: 
1)    Improved implementation of evidence-based PMH interventions in different countries in the following ways:

  • Highlight opportunities to implement a variety of interventions in different cultural contexts, including for groups at increased risk of mental health conditions

  • Support translation of evidence into practice 

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

  • Support national assessments of unmet mental health needs across diverse populations, and required actions, which then inform policy development and implementation. 

  • Support PMH training including through digital platforms 

  • Work with the WPA Medical Student Special Interest Group to support PMH training as well as sustainable reduction in medical student psychiatric morbidity

  • Collaborate with the WPA Service Users and Family Supporters SIG

  • Support integrated PMH approaches to disease management and prevention through engagement with primary care, general health systems, public health and other sectors  

2)    Collaboration with other organizations including WHO, World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA), World Federation of

        Public Health Associations (WFPHA), OECD, United Nations and World Bank
3)    Disseminate PMH relevant work including publications, webinars, presentations and training resources  

Publications by the WPA Public Mental Health Working Group 

This Special Interest Group continues the activities of the WPA Public Mental Health Working Group which published the following:

Public Mental Health Training Resources

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

SIG Offiers
Defining PMH
PMH Action Plans
SIG Actvities
Training Resources
Other activities
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