The fourth edition of the European Mental Health Week (EMHW) takes place from 22 May to 28 May 2023.

This year’s campaign theme, ‘Mentally Healthy Communities’, emphasizes the role of supportive communities in fostering mental well-being. Addressing mental health in communities requires a holistic and collaborative approach.

By raising awareness, improving access to services, promoting prevention, and fostering a supportive environment, communities can significantly improve mental well-being.

Investments in community-based mental health initiatives would be paramount given the continued rise due to the pandemic’s devastating impact on mental health, which is expected to last as a global phenomenon.

The SEE region is fragile; the inequality gap has widened during the pandemic, and mental health problems are rising.

SEEHN has been instrumental in developing and implementing mental health policies, actively addressing mental health challenges and promoting positive mental well-being in the region. It has facilitated policy dialogues, supported the sharing of evidence-based practices and assisted policy implementation through capacity-building initiatives.

SEEHN launched regional projects to address specific mental health challenges and organized training programs and workshops for healthcare workers, including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, and other relevant stakeholders. These training sessions focused on enhancing diagnostic and treatment skills, promoting early intervention, and improving overall mental health literacy.

SEEHN was the beneficiary and implementing agency of the project “Strengthening Capacities of Nurses – front line healthcare workers during the COVID-19 Response; Strong Nurses for strong health systems and a healthier world” during 2020-2021.

In partnership with Project HOPE, from October 2021 to March 2022, the Network implemented the “Mental Health and Resilience Training for HCWs Responding to COVID-19 in SEE Region”. The project aimed at supporting Member States’ efforts to improve the well-being of healthcare workers. The specific objective focused on providing more profound knowledge and essential tools and techniques to build more personal resilience and, consequently, to achieve systemic stability.

SEEHN recognizes the importance of reliable data for evidence-based decision-making. It has facilitated collecting and analysing mental health data to identify trends, gaps, and priority areas for intervention. Over the years, SEEHN has supported research initiatives focusing on mental health determinants, outcomes, and effective interventions.

During 2011-2013, the SEEHN Regional Health Development Center (RHDC) on Mental Health hosted by the Ministry of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina conducted a situational analysis of mental health. The results of this study were published in 2014.

In 2021, SEEHN Secretariat, in coordination with SEEHN RHDC on Mental Health, launched a similar mental health situational review to explore progress over the years and plan future activities.

The survey results and the roadmap for future activities were discussed during two team meetings, in June 2022 in Belgrade and in May 2023 in Sarajevo. The feedback received during these meetings has been included in this report, which will be released soon.

At the same time, in line with this year’s EMHW campaign, the Network will implement another CEI-funded initiative, Community Mental Health Services in MS – BM SEEHN and Beyond: Challenges, Progress and Incentive Policies, in the third quarter of the year.

The proposed initiative, tailored to the needs of the SEE Region, aims to improve the capacities of national health coordinators and mental health experts. It targets both the management level of health authorities and mental health expertise (ministries of health and community mental health centers) that would combine knowledge and decision-making power to impact long-term mental health policies. The training will focus on bringing together the best mental health policies, current policies in the SEE region and ways to close the gap in different settings.

Moving forward, SEEHN remains committed to supporting the mental health agenda in South Eastern Europe. It will continue to advocate for increased investments in mental health, facilitate collaboration and knowledge exchange, and promote innovative mental health care delivery approaches.Mental health is a continuous journey, and sustained efforts are necessary to create a lasting impact. As such, we encourage the SEEHN Member States to join efforts to share experiences, best practices, and expertise to improve mental health services across the region, as only together can we build healthier and more resilient communities where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

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