Donors making a difference: to global mental health – World Health Organization

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Inequality, emergencies, war and climate change threaten global mental health, says WHO’s newly released World Mental Health Report. Above: outside the Afghan Japan Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, 2022. ©WHO
WHO’s new World Mental Health Report has found that nearly a billion people were living with a mental disorder in 2019 and laid out a blueprint for working in partnerships to transform global mental health.
“Everyone’s life touches someone with a mental health condition. Good mental health translates to good physical health and this new report makes a compelling case for change,” Dr Tedros said this month upon release of the report. “Investment into mental health is an investment into a better life and future for all.”
Contributions to WHO are helping strengthen mental health awareness and services. This week’s stories – from Bhutan, Bolivia, Honduras, Kiribati, Türkiye and Yemen – explore WHO’s collaboration with partners to meet the towering challenge of safeguarding the mental health of a world under stress from pandemic, climate change, war and poverty.
The climate crisis poses a threat to mental health around the world, says WHO’s new World Mental Health Report. Above: In Madagascar, a man recovers material to rebuild his house after February’s cyclone Batsirai. ©WHO/Henitsoa Rafalia
Read more: the WHO World Mental Health Report
A patient at Al Amal hospital in Sana’a, Yemen. The country has 0.21 psychiatrists per 700 000 people. For comparison, there are nearly 30 psychiatrists for every 100 000 people in Norway. ©WHO Yemen/Omar Nasr
Yemen’s eight-year armed conflict and collapsing economy have deepened mental illness across the entire society; more than a quarter of Yemen’s 28 million residents are thought to be suffering from mental and psychosocial problems.
For this photo story, WHO staff met a young father who is under treatment at one of the four hospitals in Yemen that provides care for people with mental disorders.
WHO is helping the country strengthen its gravely underfunded mental health and psychosocial support services, working with the Government of Japan and the World Bank International Development Association.
Suicide is the sixth leading cause of death in Bhutan. Above: Dochu Pass, Bhutan. ©WHO/SEARO
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bhutan had few human resources for mental health – only two practicing psychiatrists, a handful of trained psychiatric nurses and a few clinical counsellors.
In March 2020, the Ministry of Health set up its National COVID-19 Mental Health and Psychosocial Response Team with guidance from WHO’s team in the country.
Bhutan’s Mental Health Response Team has trained more than 20 000 frontline workers and community volunteers across Bhutan to identify risk factors for suicide, provide basic psychosocial support and make referrals
Related: COVID-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression
Above: a painting by Darpan Mandal
Artists from Bhutan, India and Indonesia collaborated to create Every Life Matters: Understanding Suicide and its Impact, a book that uses art to promote an understanding of suicide, its impact on families and communities, and measures to prevent it.
Related: See WHO’s illustrated guide for coping with adversity: Doing What Matters in Times of Stress

“Mental health is a pervasive, complex area that health systems cannot address alone,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge (above). ©WHO
The Pan-European Mental Health Coalition has held the first meeting since it was formed late last year to advance mental health in a region beset by refugee crises, war and COVID-19.
“The working packages and processes of the Coalition that we start drafting today will ensure that all our Member States, from those most resourced to those least, will be able to best meet the needs of their populations and give everyone the opportunity to flourish,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
Read his full statement
Working through partnerships, WHO’s Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) is helping countries expand services for mental, neurological, and substance-abuse disorders. This new graphic shows Türkiye’s progress in training primary-care doctors to serve the needs of Syrian war refugees.

Related: Read “Stories of Change in Four Countries” on mhGAP in Belize, Libya, South Sudan and Ukraine
Flooding in Kiribati’s outer islands (above) is causing residents to flee to the larger islands, causing overcrowding. ©WHO
Rising sea levels in Kiribati are degrading the fresh-water supply, flooding houses, ruining livelihoods, killing plant life, and forcing people to flee. WHO is working with partners to confront the mental health consequences of these disruptions across Pacific island communities.
Above: A community leader in Tocaña, Bolivia who received psychological first aid training for emergencies. ©PAHO/WHO
Leaders in indigenous and Afro-descended communities in the Americas are learning the principles of psychological first aid as part of an initiative prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We managed to understand the importance of first taking care of ourselves in order to help others,” said Nilo Vásquez, leader of the National Afro-Bolivian Council (CONAFRO), which provided technical support to the initiative. “We also understood that, as leaders, we are fundamental in an emergency to be able to get close to the people affected, listen to their needs in a difficult time, and help them receive support.”
Through the same initiative, more than 60 health professionals from 39 facilities in La Paz, Bolivia, have received training to treat mental, neurological and substance use disorders.
Related: Read about mental health initiatives in Honduras and in Haiti.
WHO thanks all governments, organizations and individuals who are contributing to the Organization’s work, and in particular those who have provided fully flexible contributions to maintain a strong, independent WHO.
Donors and partners featured in this week’s stories include the Afghan Japan Hospital in Kabul, BelgiumCanada, Caribbean Alliance of National Psychology Association (CANPA), CBM Global, CONAFRO, European Union, HealthNet TPO, Irish Aid, FranceGermany, Japan, Luxembourg, the Pan-European Mental Health Coalition, Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises Programme (R2HC), the UHC Partnership, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, United Nations Fund for Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, UNHCR, VOYCE, and the World Bank International Development Association.
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