World Mental Health Day, 10 October

Commemoration at PAHO Headquarters in Washington

The campaign theme for World Mental Health Day 2009, “Mental Health in Primary Care: Enhancing Treatment and Promoting Mental Health,” was selected to disseminate and raise awareness about the critical need for giving greater priority to mental health care. It bolsters a vision of health systems where primary care workers and specialists collaborate to provide better care for the mentally ill person. The many public awareness and educational activities carried out worldwide in commemoration of this day will certainly help put this issue in the public eye and gear efforts to enhancing treatment and services for people with mental health problems.

The main activity of the celebration took place at the headquarters of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in Washington, D.C. on 8 October, and was sponsored by PAHO itself and the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH).

Jose Luis Di Fabio, PAHO's Technology, Health Care and Research Manager, and Charles Ray, representative of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) kicked off the event, welcoming the participants. Jorge J. Rodríguez, PAHO´S Senior Adviser on Mental Health, later spoke about the regional Strategy and Plan of Action on Mental Health for the Americas, which has just received official approval from PAHO Directing Council.                                                                                                   

There was also a panel of experts that discussed the issue of Mental Health in Primary Care: Expanding and Improving Treatment and Promoting Mental Health.


Mental health disorders are a serious and costly global problem that affects people of all ages, cultures, and socioeconomic levels. Depression ranks fourth in terms of disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and will soon be the second leading cause of disability worldwide. Out of the estimated 450 million people globally who have a mental health disorder, fewer than half receive the help they need.

The topics of integrated care and collaborative care have been areas of discussion by policy makers and healthcare service organizations for many years. The rationale and justification for a holistic approach to mental and physical healthcare has been championed by both the World Health Organization and the World Organization of Family Doctors (Wonca).


It is now time to review, discuss and confront the barriers that continue to impede progress to healthcare integration and effective service delivery, and to better define and advocate for a system that works for every country’s health system. The goal should be the establishment of an appropriate, affordable, and accessible healthcare system.


The advances in research and practice over the past 50 years have confirmed that “there can be no health without mental health”. The World Federation for Mental Health believes that the time has come for governments and healthcare service systems to place the highest priority on creating an integrated approach to healthcare that that will enhance wellness.


Source: Summarized from Mental Health in Primary Care: Enhancing Treatment and Promoting Mental Health, published by the WFMH.


Last Updated on Thursday, 08 October 2009 20:49