WONCA Working Party: Mental Health

2017 - Non-drug interventions for common mental health disorders in PHC 2018 - Patients with Medically Unexplained Symptoms

Mental Health

Mental health well-being: a current challenge and target

We are in a particularly challenging with a pandemic, conflicts, violence and wars, and an energy and ecological-included crisis. Healthcare systems are now struggling to attempt to tackle the resulting toll on mental health. It is the time for primary health care (PHC) to take on greater leadership. Healthcare systems often have failed to meet the needs and expectations of people globally and a key barrier has been the inability to implement a whole-person approach to care, especially in addressing the accelerated presentation of mental health conditions during this period of increase life-stressors and trauma. This pandemic has created an increased urgency to strengthen mental health systems in most countries. WWPMH’s mission is to empower GPs, family doctors, and PHC practitioners and their care teams to improve the quality of care in regards the mental health status of their patients and in parallel to their patient access to behavioural health services. 

Our Mental Health consultancies

WONCA is delighted to offer international consultancy services in primary mental health care, through its Working Party on Mental Health. We work closely with WHO and we tailor our consultancy services specifically to support the mhGAP programme. We have, also, developed good ties with World Federation of Mental Health and World Association of Psychiatry.

FInd out more about our consultancies and expert panel here

Convenor / Chair

Prof Christos Lionis (Greece)


Email Chair

Professor of General Practice and Primary Health Care, Director of the Clinic of Social and Family Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Crete, Greece 

Christos Lionis is a medical doctor and Professor with a strong interest in primary care and public health education, practice, and research. Christos has served the Clinic of Social and Family Medicine (CSFM) at the School of Medicine, University of Crete since 1995 (March) as a Professor of General Practice and Primary Health Care and CFSM Director until August 2022.

In January 2023, Christos was appointed as Professor Emeritus of the University of Crete. He was also appointed as Guest Professor of General Practice in the Institute of Health and Medicine at the University of Linkoping, Sweden (2018), a position that he continues to hold today. As part of his work with the CFSM, Christos has been involved both as PI and collaborator in multiple large European and international research collaboratives and research proposals funded by the EU and international agencies. His work has focused on capacity building of primary health care and public health in Greece and internationally. Christos has a passion for education and has a played a key role in the development medical training, continuing medical education, and quality standards in primary care and public health nationally. He has developed a strong collaboration with WHO especially in recent years. Christos is involved in an editorial and advisory capacity with a number of international journals. He also is a member of the Executive Board of various professional organizations, including that of WONCA Working Party on Mental Health where he is currently elected as Chair. He has been awarded as Honorary Fellow for the Royal College of General Practitioners (2009), the World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians (WONCA) (2016) and the European Society of Cardiology (2017). Christos has published 444 papers in international journals cited in PubMed and has an h-index of 61, total i10 index 320 and 38023 total citations (according to AD Scientific Index, 5 September 2023). Between 2019 and 2022, Christos served as a member the European Commission Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health, while he serves the Specific Advisory Group of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) until today. He is also a member of National Committee for Mental Health Reform and that of Bioethics and Biotechnology since 2022.

Co-Convenor or other office bearers

Executive Members

  • Dr Marilena Anastasakis – Public Health Interface, Member at large (Europe)
  • Dr Joseph Adekunie Ariba – Regional Vice-Chair (Africa)
  • A/Prof Jill Benson AM – Member at large (Asia Pacific)
  • Dr Darien Cipta – Regional Vice-Chair (Asia Pacific)
  • Dr Flavio Dias – Secondary care Interface, Member at large (Iberoamerica)
  • Prof Christopher Dowrick – Past Chair (Europe)
  • Dr Pramendra Prasad Gupt – Regional Vice-Chair (South Asia)
  • Dr James Jackson – Secondary care Interface, Member at large (North America)
  • Dr Abdullah al Khatami – Regional Vice-Chair (EMR)
  • Dr Phoebe Holdenson Kimara – Regional Vice-Chair, Young Doctor Representative (Asia Pacific)
  • Dr Juan Mendive – Secretary (Europe)
  • Dr Alfredo Oliveira Neto – Regional Vice-Chair (Iberoamerica)
  • Dr Daniel Ostergarde – Regional Vice-Chair (North America)
  • Dr Ferdinando Petrazzuoli – Regional Vice-Chair (Europe)
  • Dr Sonia Roache – Regional Vice-Chair (Caribbean)
  • Dr Heather Rogers – Psychology Interface, Treasurer (Europe)
  • Dr Ana Bertha Perez Villalva – Young Doctor Representative (Iberoamerica)

    Administrative support: Virginia Peraki

Vision and Mission of WONCA Working Party on Mental Health

Our vision is to contribute to the education of global burden of depression and mental health disorders, closing the existing knowledge gap that needs to be addressed to discover effective intervention with the aim to foster mental well-being. With our mind on people, families, and individuals who have affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, war, migration, ecological and economic crisis, the WONCA Working Party on Mental Health will continue serving the values of the WONCA family. In the WONCA Working Party on Mental Health, we frequently address the principles WHO Astana Declaration (2018) and In the World Federation of Mental Health’s dedicated to the World Mental Health Day (Lionis et al, 2021), we have stated that “As family doctors we fully endorse this commitment to the fundamental rights of people with mental health conditions. We support WHO in promoting a shift from stigmatizing long-stay mental hospitals, to more acceptable and dignified care in community-based settings. Primary care, with its emphasis on the connections between mental and physical health, and its unique ability to tackle problems of co-morbidity and multimorbidity, is exceptionally well-placed to enhance mental health within universal health coverage systems. Family doctors are well placed to assess patients’ vulnerability, the impact of poverty and disadvantage, and their association with mental and psychological conditions. We can intervene to reduce the mortality and morbidity of people with severe mental illness, who die prematurely, spiraling into homelessness, unemploy¬ment and poverty and with greatly increased risk of developing non-communicable diseases such as diabetes”. In addition, we want to contribute to early recognition of mental health related symptoms and prevent them to become severe leading to psychiatric diagnoses.

Objectives of the WONCA Working Party on Mental Health

To serve as a focus to stimulate and promote standards of excellence in the primary health care management of mental health, consistent with patient and professional values and with reference to evidence based health care 
To promote the concept of mental health jointly with that of global health and well-being 
To foster and develop mental health research activities in primary care & the primary care interface 
To hold scientific meetings, which may include sessions and workshops, during WONCA Regional and World conferences, to present original papers and to address broader educational issues through discussion, training and debate 
To promote and develop patient information about mental health issues 
To develop and promote appropriate literature for primary care professionals using a variety of resources, including WONCA Online 
To promote the discipline of primary care mental health world-wide through collaborative working within WONCA, World Psychiatric Association, World Federation for Mental Health, NGO’s, government organizations, patient groups & other medical colleges 
To address the issue of stigma and discrimination associated with mental health difficulties. 
To foster the doctor-patient relationship and interdisciplinary collaboration in the management of health care disorders. 



Mission: The WWPMH’s mission is to empower family and PHC practitioners and their teams to improve the quality of care regarding the mental health status of their patients and their families and, in parallel, to assist their patients’ access to behavioural care services. 

Actions Taken to Enhance Geographical Representation: Within the WP board, Regional Vice-Chairs have been appointed for Africa, EMR, Europe, Iberoamerica, South Asia, Asia Pacific, North America, and the Caribbean. The executive board members are responsible for forming their regional teams, discussing priorities, and presenting suggestions to the Board.

Inclusion of Young Doctors: Young doctors hold a vital role within the WP/SIG. Dr. Phoebe Holdenson Kimara and Dr. Ana Bertha Perez Villalva, representing the Young Doctors Movement, are active members of the Board. They actively participate in decision-making processes, making their contributions invaluable.

Measures for Gender Equity: Ensuring gender equity has been a focus. The composition of the new executive board reflects this commitment, with members such as Dr. Jill Benson, Dr. Heather Rogers, Dr. Phoebe Holdenson Kimara, and Dr. Marilena Anastasakis. Dr. Sonia Roache serves as the Regional Vice-Chair of the Caribbean. Furthermore, Dr. Ana Bertha Perez Villalva, representing the Young Doctors Movement, recently joined our Board.

Activities Undertaken in 2023: Throughout 2023, a diverse range of activities were conducted. These included participation in global conferences and workshops at events like the 27th WONCA Europe Conference and the WONCA Asia Pacific Regional Conference. Further outreach included participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum on Mental Health Resiliency among Healthcare Workers in the New Normal and the Mexican National Family Medicine Conference. Initiatives such as the Advocacy Project and MDD Minds for Primary Care Project were launched. A new book titled "Challenges in Primary Mental Health Care: Models for Interdisciplinary Collaboration" is being prepared, and efforts to bolster online presence and communication are ongoing.

Collaborations with Other Entities: Collaborations with other WP/SIGs were established through meetings arranged by WONCA Global. A letter of interest was crafted for select institutions and networks with activities relevant to primary care and GP/FM. Additionally, a proposal for the WONCA Collaborative Fund has been submitted.

Collaboration with WHO: Dr. Chris Dowrick participated in the WHO Conference on pre-service education for mental health in Geneva. Collaborative efforts with the World Psychiatry Society to advance joint activities under WHO's support are ongoing, mainly focusing on integrating mental health into primary care.

Plans for 2024: Exciting plans lie ahead for 2023. The Advocacy Training Project for young family doctors in PHC, the MDD Minds for Primary Care Project to enhance the quality of care for major depressive disorders in family doctors in Africa, Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and the Music and Mental Health Project will continue. A mental health-focused postgraduate program curriculum is under preparation, while the training program to support family physicians caring for refugees and migrants is expanding. Active discussions exploring the WWPMH's involvement in the EC call for funds are underway, with several actions in that direction. Work on the WP group on the Membership Portal and updates to the WP’s page on the WONCA website are ongoing. Meetings with the publisher for the new WWPMH book are underway for publication within the next year.


Minutes WWPMH 11.2.22
Minutes WWPMH 10.5.22
Minutes WWPMH 7.6.22
Minutes WWPMH 6.7.22


Members of the Working Party at WONCA 2023 in Sydney in October 2023.

Members of the Working Party at WONCA 2023 in Sydney in October 2023.

Members of the Working Party participated at the XXXIII National Congress of Family Medicine in May 2023.

Prof Lionis represented the Working Party at a national online Congress in Turkey in May 2023.

Members of the Working Party developed and delivered the MHT UKRAINE-Protecting mental health of healthcare professional in war-zones: building resilience and self-care for Ukrainian doctors in February 2023.

Dr Cipta represented the Working Party at the WONCA APRC Bali 2022 in December 2022.

Working Party’s participation at the WONCA webinars by MIMS in October 2023.

The working party meets in Rio in 2016

Members of the Working Party in Cancun in 2010

Relevant Resources

WWPMH guidance on mental health recovery 2019

From knowledge to action – building recovery into relationships with patients in primary care
Written on behalf of the WONCA Working Party for Mental Health, 2019. Author: Amanda Howe, with contributions from Chris Dowrick, Christine Gibson, Cindy Lam, Jun Liang, Christine Lionis, and Johanna Lynch.

Online training resources on Common Mental Health Problems

This form provides information on high quality, freely accessible online resources, with a focus on common mental health problems, aimed primarily (but not exclusively) at family doctors. This list has been collated by members of the WONCA Working Party of Mental Health (WWPMH)*. The resources are listed by country of origin but are widely applicable.


Black Dog Institute:
There are currently 17 recordings of live webinars

A six module online learning program interest all focussed on Australian evidence-based eMH programs and resources and how to use them in clinical practice. Many of these resources are available to international users and one, MoodGYM, has been translated into a number of languages including Chinese. Were a GP from outside Australia to undertake the eMHPrac modules or listen to a webinar they would hear about online programs and resources that they could use outside Australia.


“find a course” through the following link and refine the search using keyword “mental health” for example here.


Two main governmental platforms for distance Learning and both have Mental Health free online courses:

1 - UNASUS - Universidade Aberta do SUS

1a - Evento Agudos em Saúde Mental (one of many other courses in mental health)

2 - TelessaúdeRS- Núcleo de Telessaúde da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul

2a - Curso EAD de Saúde Mental na Atenção Primária para Médicos

United Kingdom

RCGP mental health toolkit

WHO / Pan American Health Organization

Annual Courses for primary care practitioners- mhGAP---Mental Health Global Action Programme: NMH-MH-VCmhGAP-17

Other courses:
(NMH / MH) Salud Mental y Uso de Sustancias
(NMH / MH) Mental Health and Substance UseWHO mhGAP programme - contains clinical protocols for management of priority conditions

WHO MiNDbank online platform - key resources related to mental health, substance use, disability, general health, human rights and development.
WHO Mental Health resources
Culturally Sensitive Depression Guideline
WHO report - Dementia: a public health priority (2012)

WONCA Working Party for Mental Health

Our own recently produced guidance and training on physical health care for patients with severe mental illness:


This report provides the rationale and know-how on successfully integrating mental health into primary health care. Readers will find out how providing mental health care into primary health care settings produces better health outcomes, learn from other countries that have successfully integrated their mental health services into primary health care, and discover 10 common principles that underlie all successful mental health integration, regardless of country resource level.
Authors: WHO / WONCA
Number of pages: viii, 206 p.
Publication date: 2008
Languages: English
Price: CHF 40.00 / US$ 40.00
ISBN: 9789241563680
WHO reference number: WM 140 2008IN

This book provides up-to-date, practical information for family doctors on how to assess and manage important mental health problems presenting in primary care settings. 
Patients frequently present with mental health problems in primary care settings around the world, yet family doctors consistently identify gaps in their knowledge, skills and confidence in how best to care for them. Contributors to the book are experts in primary mental health care and have consulted with family doctors around the world, to identify their main learning needs. Each of the nine core chapters will begin with a set of key points on ‘how to do it’ and will end with educational material in the form of clinical scenarios and multiple choice questions. This book describes core competencies for primary mental health care, clarifies how to conduct a first consultation about depression, reviews non-drug interventions for common mental health problems, discusses the management of unexplained physical symptoms, and advises on the physical health care of patients with severe mental illness. It explores the mental health needs of migrants and young people, and explains how to manage problems of frailty, multimorbidity and dementia.

This book is included in the following book series: WONCA Family Medicine