WONCA Working Party: Mental Health

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

Mental Health

the Working Party meets in Korea in November 2018

Why we need a working party on Mental Health

Our vision is to provide a universal gold standard of care for mental health by empowerment through primary care and in collaboration with all interested stakeholders.

A high percentage of patients presenting to family practitioners suffer from some form of psychiatric or neurological disorder. However, a lot of these problems are under-diagnosed. Those diagnosed often present with complex needs that have long term consequences for themselves and their families. Despite the fact that there may be well- developed secondary care systems to deal with such problems, a lot of these patients due to the fear of stigma, prefer to be cared for by their general practitioners. Our vision is to contribute to the education of global burden of depression, closing the existing knowledge gap that needed to be address to discover effective intervention. With our wind to people, families, and individuals who have affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, war, ecological and economic crisis the WONCA Working Party on Mental Health will continue serving the values of the WONCA family.

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 serves currently the Clinic of Social and Family Medicine (CSFM) at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Crete as Professor of General Practice and Primary Health Care and Director.

He has also appointed as Guest Professor of General Practice in the Institute of Health and Medicine at the University of Linkoping, Sweden. Christos with a strong orientation in research and education has actively involved in the development of Primary Care and General Practice in Greece and internationally.

Several research collaborative proposals with the involvement of the CSFM have been funded by EU and international agencies with an impact on the capacity building of primary health care and public health in Greece.

Christos is also 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 organisations 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, the World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians (WONCA) and the European Society of Cardiology. Christos has published 413 papers in international journals that they cited in PubMed.

Since 2019, Christos is a member of the European Commission Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health and recentrly he has appointed a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Medicines Agency/Vaccines. 

Co-Convenor or other office bearers

Executive Members

  • Prof Chris Dowrick - Past Chair
  • Dr Abdullah al Khatami – Vice Chair
  • Dr Juan Mendive - Secretary
  • Dr Heather Rogers- Treasurer
  • Dr Jill Benson – Member at large

Regional Vice-Chairs:
  • Dr Joseph Adekunie Ariba- Africa
  • Dr Abdullah al Khatami (Saudi Arabia) - EMR
  • Dr Ferdinando Petrazzouli - Europe
  • Dr Alfredo Oliveira Neto - Iberoamerica
  • Dr Pramendra Prasad Gupta - South Asia
  • Dr Darien Cipta and Phoebe Holdenson Kimara  - Asia Pacific
  • Dr Daniel Ostergarde - North America
  • Dr Sonia Roache - Caribbean

Secondary care Interface:
  • Dr James Jackson
  • Dr Darien Cipta
  • Dr Flavio Dias

Young Doctor representative:
  • Dr Phoebe Holdenson Kimara  


Vision and Mission of WONCA Working Party on Mental Health

Mission: To improve mental health and healthcare around the world.

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 promote 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 associated with mental health difficulties. 


Publications & Documents

Your feedback welcome on any of our publications

- Global Primary Mental Health Care: Practical Guidance for Family Doctors 2019

- Addressing the needs of patients with Medically Unexplained Symptoms (2018)         中文  

- Core competencies of family doctors in primary mental health care - (2018)   Bahasa Indonesia  Tiếng Việt     español   中文 

- Guidance on caring for the physical health of patients with Severe Mental Illness (SMI) resources (2017)

- Depression - an evidence based first consultation (2017)  Português       العربية         中文

- Family doctors’ role in providing non-drug interventions (NDIs) for common mental health disorders in primary care (2017, rev 2018)  Tiếng Việt  español     中文

- Integrating mental health into primary care: a global perspective. (2008).

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

- Primary Care Factsheet: Integrating Mental Health Services Into Primary Health Care. (2007)

Authors: WHO, WONCA

- WONCA Culturally Sensitive Depression Guideline (2004) 


Activity Plan 2016-18

1. Improve WWPMH structures

• Expand membership

• Ensure representation across all WONCA constituencies
      o Regional vice-chairs
      o WONCA Young Doctors
      o Mental health liaison

• Enhance communication between WWPMH members
      o Regular e-meetings for WWPMH officers
      o Regular e-bulletins for all WWPMH members

2. Offer mental health guidance for WONCA members

• Advise Executive and Council of relevant primary mental health issues

• Encourage primary mental health care input to all WONCA conferences

• Enable collaboration with other WPs and SIGs

• Develop task groups on specific topics, including:
      o Core competencies for primary mental health care
      o Shared learning for primary mental health care
      o Non-drug interventions for psycho-social distress
      o Physical health care for people with severe mental illness
      o Management of medically unexplained symptoms
      o Mental health care of migrants (with Migrant Care SIG)

3. Provide leadership on global primary mental health care

• Advocate for improved primary mental health care on behalf of family doctors and their patients.

• Progress the international primary mental health care consultancy.

• Promote external collaborations, including with WHO mhGAP, World Psychiatric Association and World Federation for Mental Health.

• Work with WHO mhGAP team to develop and disseminate an implementation manual for the integration of mental and behavioural health with primary care.


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


the working party meets in Rio in 2016


Members of the Working Party in Cancun in 2010

Relevant Resources

NEW! 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: