Press Release

Building back better - Strengthening the work on mental health in the Western Balkans

24 October 2022

News from the World Health Organization in Albania

In recent years, there has been increasing acknowledgment of the important role mental health plays in achieving global development goals, as illustrated by the inclusion of mental health in the Sustainable Development Goals. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. People with severe mental health conditions die prematurely – as much as two decades early – due to preventable physical conditions.

Despite progress in some countries, people with mental health conditions often experience severe human rights violations, discrimination, and stigma. Many mental health conditions can be effectively treated at relatively low cost, yet the gap between people needing care and those with access to care remains substantial. Effective treatment coverage remains extremely low.

In October, a sub-regional meeting on mental health was held in Albania with 25 experts from the Western Balkans. During the meeting partners re-committed to historical mental health reforms in the Western Balkans. Including policy frameworks for suicide prevention, further expansion of community-based mental health services, and enabling primary healthcare to play a crucial role in prevention, treatment, and care for people living with mental health conditions.

More specifically, discussions were held on:

- mental health policies;

- mental health and well-being of children, adolescents, and young people;

- digitalization of mental health care;

- and integration of mental health in primary health care.

Mental health is one of the four flagship priorities of the European Programme of Work (EPW) of the WHO European Region. The European Framework for Action on Mental Health 2021-2025 (EFAMH) has identified its objectives as per the three core pillars of the EPW: Moving Towards Universal Health Coverage, Protecting People Better from Health Emergencies, and Ensuring Healthy Lives and Well-being for All at All Ages.

Mental health is also one of the five initiatives highlighted in the Roadmap for Health and Well-being in the Western Balkans (2021-2025) with the target to establish a subregional hub under the Pan-European Mental Health Coalition and maximize expertise. We are glad to see many engaged stakeholders working together in one room for inclusive and sustainable mental health care in the Western Balkans.


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