75 years of mental health advocacy

"75 years of mental health advocacy: achievements, challenges, and the future": Co-organized by the World Council of Churches, World Federation for Mental Health, and World Health Organisation, the event will celebrate the 75th anniversary of both the WCC and the World Federation for Mental Health.


The seminar, held on 17 November and titled “75 Years of Mental Health Advocacy: Achievements, Challenges, and the Future,” drew more than 1,000 people online. 

Dr Mwai Makoka, WCC programme executive for health and healing, was one of the opening speakers, and reflected that the WCC and the World Federation for Mental Heath are both celebrating their 75th anniversaries. 

“The WCC is really no stranger to the field of health in general, and particularly to the field of mental health,” he said. “The world is dealing with existential health issues: climate change, water, food.”

Health is holistic, reflected Makoka. “It’s not that we don’t believe, or trust, or use scientific tools,” he said “Science is also not primarily anti-faith.”

President of the World Federation for Mental Health Dr Nasser Loza offered an overview of the history of the World Federation for Mental Health, and how it has evolved into the international, multi-professional organization it is today. 

Speakers and discussions centered around amplifying efforts in fostering resilience, empathy, and understanding within our communities across the world. 

Dr Gabriel Ivbijaro, secretary general for the World Federation for Mental Health, reflected that, even as the federation celebrates 75 years, they will not take their successes for granted. 

“Our leaders want us to support, to work at state level, and to begin to look at the terminology that we use for mental health,” he said. “They say also we must work with the International Labor Organization. I think last year or two years ago we did some work but it’s not enough so let’s put that into our planning.”

The World Federation for Mental Health, established in 1948, is the oldest mental health advocacy organisation in special consultative status with the United Nations since 1963. The  World Health Organization Executive Board has admitted the federation into official relations. Membership of the federation is global, and includes people with lived mental health experience, families, caregivers, mental health organizations, institutions, policymakers, mental health professionals, and members of the general public with an interest in mental health.

In spite of the tremendous commitment of the mental health professionals, 85% of people living with mental health disorders in the low- and middle-income countries receive no treatment. Even in high income come countries 50% of people living with mental health disorders receive no treatment.

As part of key messages to the gatherings, Dr Manoj Kurian the Coordinator of WCC Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance concluded "we require a strengthening of the working relationship between mental health professionals, service providers, and Faith communities. We need the leaders, the leadership and the institutions and structures of faith communities to develop a close working relationship with mental health professionals. This will bring coherence to the values that promote flourishing and well-being that we uphold together."

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