Mental health

Mental health policy, planning & service development

Namibia mental health policy launch, 2005

Mental health policy defines the vision for the future mental health of the population, specifying the framework which will be put in place to manage and prevent priority mental and neurological disorders.

When clearly conceptualized, a mental health policy can co-ordinate essential services and activities to ensure that treatment and care is delivered to those in need while at the same time preventing fragmentation and inefficiencies in the health system.

A mental health plan is a pre-formulated detailed scheme to implement the vision and objectives defined in the policy. A plan should include the concrete strategies and activities that will be implemented to tackle mental disorders and associated disability, as well as specifying the targets to be achieved by the government. It should also clarify the roles of the different stakeholders in implementing the activities of the mental health plan (see information sheet for more on mental health policy and plans).

WHO technical support to policy makers and service planners

WHOs three most important recommendations for the development of policy, strategic plans and for organizing services are to deinstitutionalise mental health care; to integrate mental health into general health care; and to develop community mental health services. Support to countries is provided at multiple levels and includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Mental health situational analysis and needs assessment

Helping countries to analyse in as comprehensive way as possible, their mental health situation and needs. What are the priority mental health problems, what are the major needs, what are the available resources to address needs? What are the service and resource gaps?

Facilitating stakeholder consultations within countries

Facilitating discussions and consultations between the different stakeholders within the country interested in mental health reform.

Analysis, drafting and implementation of mental health policies, strategic plans and proposals for service organization

Working closely with the MOH and committees to analyse and draft mental health policies and strategic plans and advise on their implementation.

Assistance to improve capacity of mental health systems and services

Ongoing technical assistance to policy makers to improve overall functioning of the mental health system and services. Two core related issues that always assume importance in countries where we work are service development and human resource development and training. Primary health care is nearly always featured in countries requests for assistance.

Building knowledge and skills of policy makers, health planners and service providers

Providing the opportunity to policy makers, health planners and service providers to gain more knowledge and skills through training workshops in a number of areas critical to policy making and service planning (developing policies and plans; developing law; improving access to psychotropic drugs, developing mental health information systems, implementing quality improvement strategies, budgeting and financing for mental health, mental health monitoring and evaluation).

Contact details

Mental health policy and service development

Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO Geneva.