The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) is an international multidisciplinary advocacy and education organization. It was founded in 1948 with goals of preventing mental and emotional disorders, the proper treatment and care of those with such disorders, and the promotion of mental health. WFMH has been an NGO with consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 1963 and has official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO).
Alberto Trimboli, President, WFMH Board of Directors, shared his views with Future Medicine. Edited excerpts:
Stigma continues to be the biggest hurdle that comes in the way of addressing mental health. How does WFMH address this perennial problem?
One of the best means to eliminate stigma is education and awareness of mental health conditions. Ignorance creates misconceptions and fear, and prevents people from getting the help they need. The more we can teach people about mental illness, the more they will understand its treatable, [and is] nothing to fear and [that] recovery is possible.
If we can educate people, the stigma goes away. Mental health needs equal treatment, funding, research, resources and a level playing field. People need to know ‘its ok to not be ok’ and that you can live a regular life with mental illness.
Mental disorders are on the rise worldwide. Can you brief us on the prevention strategies that WFMH undertake?
The WFMH is trying to tackle the growing mental health issue by working at both ends –advocacy at the grassroots level and policy changes at the government level. Our programmes, outreach and participation in high-level meetings at the United Nations and WHO headquarters is geared towards prevention and treatment, and to push governments to spend more on mental health resources, research and treatment opportunities.
Suicide prevention is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Day. How crucial is the role of health authorities in preventing suicide?
Incredibly important. We can educate people, provide helpful tools, etc., but if countries don’t have the proper funding and plans for suicide prevention, people don’t have what they need to provide training, create proper resources, provide treatment options, etc.. There are currently only 38 countries in the world that have a national strategic suicide prevention plan! That needs to change now.
In what ways can social media impact mental health? Do we have any studies throwing light on this topic?
The WFMH does not have research on social media’s impact on mental health, although, our biggest project, World Mental Health Day, uses social media to get our message out and unite people around the world to put mental health in the spotlight on October 10 every year. Our WMHDAY message in 2018 was able to reach over 4.7 million people in one month – that is something we would never accomplish without adding social media into our campaign.
What you mean by using the term “Inclusive Approaches to Mental Health”?
The WFMH believes that mental health recovery requires an inclusive approach to create positive change and successful recovery. Patients, doctors, nurses, family and communities working together make recovery possible. We have a long history of working with all levels of people, from local to regional and global entities. We are hosting a congress to bring everyone together for the best mental health outcome possible.