Mental Health Matters - regional updates

Prof Chris Dowrick, Chair of the WONCA Working Party on Mental Health reports on lots of news for you this month across the regions, and from our task groups.

Regional news

Adekunle Joseph Ariba has returned from the successful WONCA conference in Uganda, with plans for a major mhGAP training programme for African family doctors. He will be working on this with WWPMH and WHO regional office. The WONCA Africa Executive Committee has arranged a stakeholder meeting with the WHO African Regional Head; his office has a mandate to support integration of mental health into primary care and will collaborate with this WONCA initiative.

We had two major events at the Asia-Pacific conference in Kyoto in May: a well-attended plenary session on the Japanese Train the Trainer programme which we ran with EACH; and a very successful two day Train the Trainers workshop on mental health for 31 family doctors from Asia-Pacific and South Asia. Here is a photo of the whole group:

Sally Liu (Mainland China) reports on her recent training session with 40 family doctors in Guangdong province; this was their first exposure to mental health training. In Shenzhen the government has introduced a policy to include psychological counselling in community health centres, so our training for family doctors on core competencies to address mental health problems is very important.

We are now in discussion with WWPMH colleagues Linh Nguyen (Vietnam) and Helen Sigua (Philippines) about expanding training programmes in their countries.

Cindy Lam reports that APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health ( is an important international initiative with strong implications for primary care. It will benefit from WONCA's input and expertise.

Sonia Roache-Barker reports considerable activity, including mhGAP training across the region, a focus on student mental illness prevention on university campuses, and new community-based approaches to reducing stigma in Trinidad. Although there is an urgent need to increase the number of primary mental health care professionals, Sonia is delighted to report that two regional professionals, psychiatrist Dr. Helene Marceau-Crooks (Tobago) and family doctor Dr. Varma Deyalsingh (Trinidad) were finalists in the 2018 Mental Health Champions Awards for the World Dignity Project.

Eastern Mediterranean:

Abdullah Al-Khatami reports that the Ministry of Health in Egypt has given approval to generalize the initial steps of integrating mental health in primary health care from three regions to all over Egypt.

At the WONCA Europe conference in Bratislava, Christos Lionis, Ferdinando Petrazzuoli and Venetia Young launched our new WWPMH guidance document on dementia. Also during the Bratislava conference, Christos chaired an open WWPMH meeting.

Sonia Fortes reports that there will be substantial primary mental health input at the Brazilian family doctors conference in July.

Task Groups

As well as launching our dementia guidance document in Bratislava on 27 June, here is news of two new task groups.

Thanks to Larry Green (USA), we have started discussions with the Farley Center about setting up a new advocacy task group. The intention here is to enable young and mid-career family doctors develop policy skills necessary to achieve system change for primary mental health care in their countries. We are also in discussion with WONCA Young Doctors about this initiative.


Rohan Maharaj (Trinidad and Tobago) proposes a new task group to develop a guidance document on how best to manage patients with alcohol problems in primary care. Rohan has created an initial 10 point summary - see attached. Please let me know if you'd like to take part.

With my best wishes to you all

Professor Christopher Dowrick