Bogotá, Colombia, December 2, 2022 – At the third meeting of the PAHO/WHO High-Level Commission on Mental Health and COVID-19, its members analyzed recommendations for advancing mental health in the Americas. This meeting was held after an extensive process of collective reflection and listening to experts and key actors in the countries of the region.
The third meeting, held in Bogotá on November 30 and December 1, was hosted by H.E. Mrs Epsy Campbell Barr, Chairperson of the Commission; Ambassador Nestor Mendez, Co-Chairman of the Commission; and Dr. Anselm Hennis, Director of the PAHO/WHO Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. The opening session was attended by Johanna Marcela Barbosa Alfonso, National Director of Promotion and Prevention at the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Colombia.
“We are committed to developing a series of recommendations to significantly improve mental health care, promotion and prevention to bring health to millions of people whose realities have been disrupted by the pandemic. We will present a report that will be a strategy for action on mental health in the hemisphere,” said HE Ms Epsy Campbell Barr.
Among the key issues highlighted in the final report was the importance of partnerships and the need to prioritize the inclusion of mental health in all policies and sectors. “Prioritizing mental health funding is essential, as is adequate investment with a community focus, promoting person-centred care,” said Ambassador Nestor Mendes.
Another key issue discussed by the Commission was mental health care and service delivery, with an emphasis on integrating mental health into all levels of care, and increasing access and coverage of treatment in the community.
Social and economic determinants of mental health and populations in need of special attention were also discussed. “It is necessary to highlight those groups that have historically been discriminated against, that have to constantly face a reality that hurts their self-esteem, their dignity and that have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples, women, young people, people with existing mental illness, frontline health workers, ie. all vulnerable sectors,” said H.E. Mrs. Epsy Campbell Barr.
During the meeting, participants discussed the importance of sharing mental health practices and knowledge developed by countries in the Americas that can be replicated throughout the region. “We also had the opportunity to make site visits and learn about health care models in communities, which will give us another perspective to consolidate a solid and convincing report,” said Ambassador Nestor Mendez.
As part of the agenda of this meeting, the commissioners visited various mental health initiatives taking place in Colombia. They spoke with representatives of the National Committee for Mental Health of Colombia, who presented their work, challenges and recommendations. Dr. Gina Tambini, PAHO/WHO representative in Colombia, attended this meeting.
Likewise, the commissioners visited Santa Clara Hospital, which has an inpatient mental health unit and a day center that cares for adult patients, as well as the pediatric mental health unit at San Blasen Hospital, Bogotá. In addition, they visited the Nuevas Delicias service unit, an outpatient unit from which the Bogotá Health Secretariat develops non-face-to-face intervention strategies, such as the “Psychoactive Line 106” that provides psychosocial support and guidance, and the Psychoactive Line that provides information , orientation, brief intervention and follow-up in connection with the prevention and use of psychoactive substances.