Pre-conference Event on Mental Health

A Pre-Conference Workshop on Mental Health organised by Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung (BZgA) and Gesundheit Österreich GmbH (GÖG) took place in Berlin on the 9th of November 2022 in the frame of the EUPHA 15th European Public Health conference.

The event that was attended by about 35 participants provided an insight into strategies, approaches and practices to strengthen the mental stability of individuals and prevent mental health distress as a result of crisis situations in selected European countries. Moreover, it shed light on initiatives to improve public understanding of mental health and actions taken to fight stigma and discrimination linked to mental health conditions.

The first session about Building resilience in individuals and protecting populations from mental health risks resulting from crisis situations was chaired by Yvette Shajanian Zarneh and Nathalie Bélorgey (BZgA). The presentation given by Gabriele Klärs, Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) from Germany, focused on specific measures developed by BZgA with a view to strengthening mental health and resilience of the population and specific vulnerable target groups during the COVID-19 pandemic, including informational and educational packages developed for teachers and childcare professionals about dealing with pandemic-specific stress on children and young people. Danijela Štimac Grbić, from the Croatian Institute for Public Health (CIPH) presented the experience of Croatia in setting-up mobile crisis support teams as a response to major civil psycho-trauma caused by natural disasters (earthquakes of March 2020) and the war in Ukraine (support to refugees). From the input provided by Alexander Grabenhofer-Eggerth, Gesundheit Österreich GmbH (GÖG), the participants heard how lessons learned about psychosocial effects of the Covid19 pandemic were used to develop a concept for improved data collection and to establish a monthly nationwide monitoring of psychosocial burden, mental illnesses and suicidality in Austria, based on available (routine) data sources. The session was closed with concluding remarks and reflections about potential ways forward in addressing mental health risks resulting from crisis situations by Dorota Sienkiewicz from EuroHealthNet in Belgium.

The second workshop session about Overcoming stigma around mental health – A fundamental challenge under new attention chaired by Alexander Grabenhofer-Eggerth (GÖG) started with a presentation by Ursula von Rüden (BZgA) who gave an overview of results on the effectiveness of anti-stigma interventions from literature reviews and practical examples in Germany. Monika Nowotny (GÖG) shared the experiences of Austria in developing a coordinated, multilevel strategy to reduce the stigma of mental illness, based on evidence and best practices and building on existing structures, projects and programmes, within the frame of a Mental Health in All Policies (MHiAP) approach. The session was completed by a committed input by Guadalupe Morales Cano, from the Fundación Mundo Bipolar in Spain, who reminded of the importance of involving people with mental health conditions as real “agents of change” into the fight against stigma and discrimination and provided the audience with an overview of key findings and recommendations from the recent Lancet Commission report on ending stigma and discrimination in mental health.

The numerous questions and contributions by workshop participants demonstrated the high interest of the audience and the relevance of the presented topics in today’s European societies. We are proud to mention that the institutions of all facilitators and speakers in the conference are also involved in the JA ImpleMENTAL project.