Post-emergency situations offer opportunity to transform mental health care

On World Humanitarian Day, 19 August, WHO launches a report on improving mental health services long term in the aftermath of emergencies. The report “Building back better. Sustainable mental health care after emergencies” notes that despite their tragic nature and adverse effects on mental health, emergencies also provide an opportunity to transform mental health care and thereby improve the lives of many people.

The report provides guidance for strengthening mental health systems after emergencies and examples from around the world. In the WHO European Region, the report follows the changes in mental health services in the United Nations Administered Province of Kosovo (in accordance with Security Council resolution 1244 (1999)). Following violence and conflict in the 1990s, a mental health task force was formed, and a mental health strategic plan developed. This plan emphasized strengthening community-based mental health services, where previously the system had been hospital-focused. Today, each of the Province’s  seven regions offers a range of community-based mental health services and, despite ongoing challenges, reform is progressing.