Santa Cruz de la Sierra, July 10-12.- The Andean countries Mental Health Directors Meeting was organized by the Andean Health Body - Convenio Hipólito Unanue (ORAS - CONHU) - and the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). Participants met to analyze mechanisms for strengthening the leading role of health ministries and the functioning of health services regarding care and rehabilitation delivery, with a community-based model, to promote mental well-being and prevent mental, neurological and substance use disorders.

Between 18.7% and 24.2% of the population suffers from some mental disorder in the Americas. About 100,000 people die by suicide every year in the Region. Alcohol and psychoactive substances use disorders are also a growing problem, with great social impact, and often there are no adequate services to address them. More than 73% of the adult population in the Americas does not receive treatment for affective, anxiety and substance use disorders.

Participants analyzed the situation of mental health in the Americas, shared information on the rules and functioning of mental health in their countries and sought to strengthen the integration of the mental health component in primary care and emergency situations.

In that sense, another objective pursued was to analyze the importance of family and community participation, including mental health services users and their families, in mental health promotion and prevention programs, with a human rights approach.

Despite the burden of mental and substance use disorders, the response of health systems in many countries is inadequate, with limited resources and supported by hospital-based models. However, there are some positive and innovative examples: several countries in the Region have very encouraging experiences and results, in which the participation of service users played a fundamental role and, thanks to these experiences, it is possible to look at the future with optimism in the Americas.

During the meeting, attendants sought to agree on a roadmap of future activities to strengthen national mental health programs in the Andean countries. There were presentations by experts and by the ministries of health of the participating countries, plenary discussions and group work. Facilitation was supported by PAHO/WHO Subregional Mental Health Advisor for South America, Dr. Andrea Bruni.

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