On September 26, 2023, the South-eastern Europe Health Network (SEEHN) Secretariat was proud to organize a highly successful Mental Health Session during the prestigious European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG) 2023 conference.

The session convened an esteemed assembly of experts, policymakers, and advocates, uniting to tackle critical mental health challenges prevalent in the South-eastern Europe (SEE) region.

Broadcast globally via live-streaming, the event was marked by profound discussions, exchange of invaluable insights, and the exploration of strategies aimed at fortifying mental health services across Europe.

The session featured distinguished speakers who significantly enriched the discourse:

Prof Dr Hristo Hinkov, minister of health Bulgaria, emphasized the global, regional and national strategic frameworks to advance mental health.

Dr Nathalie Berger, Director for Support to Member State Reforms at the European Commission, and Dr Nikolina Jovanović, Associate Professor at Queen Mary University of London, provided succinct talks on pivotal elements necessary for the advancement of mental health services in South-Eastern Europe.

Dr Nicolae Jelamschi, representing the public sector, shared illuminating insights into the trends and the significance of mental health in the SEE region’s healthcare workforce, along with key priorities for improvement.

At the same time, the session benefited from the profound experiences of Dr Biljana Lakić and Dr Irina Rizvan, who offered insights into Bosnia and Herzegovina’s mental health sector.

The panel discussions and audience interaction were moderated by Dr Mira Jovanovski Dašić, Director of South-Eastern European Health Network (SEEHN) Secretariat. Additionally a Young Gasteiner, Ms Benedetta Baldini, provided support at the News Desk throughout the session.

Key Highlights and Outcomes:

  • Regional Comparative Study Findings: The session unveiled the findings of a comprehensive regional comparative study on mental health services in SEE, providing an all-encompassing overview of the current state of mental health services in the region.
  • National Experience Sharing: Attendees were privileged to gain profound insights into Bosnia and Herzegovina’s remarkable two-decade journey in post-conflict mental health reforms, with a focus on the importance of sharing such experiences to benefit other SEEHN Member States.
  • Prioritizing Healthcare Workers’ Mental Health: Best practices for addressing mental health issues among healthcare professionals took center stage. The session underscored the necessity of prioritizing the well-being and resilience of healthcare workers.
  • Empowering Civil Society: A significant portion of the session was dedicated to exploring the critical role of civil society in furnishing community-based mental health services and fostering inclusivity and support, emphasizing the significance of collaborative endeavors.
  • EU Support and Aspirations: Deliberations revolved around the European Union’s pivotal role in supporting mental health reforms in the SEE region, aligning harmoniously with the region’s aspirations for EU accession.
  • Engaged Audience: Active participation from both onsite and online attendees enriched the session, with thought-provoking questions and discussions spanning topics such as EU support for mental health, accessibility to mental healthcare services, trends in mental health for the healthcare workforce, and innovative approaches to mental health service delivery.

The session concluded with a comprehensive panel discussion that provided attendees with an opportunity to delve deeply into subjects encompassing current practices, effective implementation strategies, the scaling up of mental health services, and the fundamental prerequisites for successful mental health reforms.

SEEHN Secretariat extends its heartfelt appreciation to all the speakers, panelists, moderators, and participants whose invaluable contributions played a pivotal role in the resounding success of the Mental Health Session at EHFG 2023. The session reflected the unwavering dedication and commitment of individuals and organizations to advance mental health services and support the well-being of healthcare professionals in the SEE region.

The insights, knowledge, and recommendations generated during this session will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on mental health policies and practices in the SEE region.

 SEEHN Secretariat remains steadfast in its commitment to advancing the cause of mental health and eagerly anticipates ongoing collaboration and progress in this pivotal area.

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