Bogotá, Colombia, December 2, 2022. - At the third meeting of PAHO/WHO High-Level Commission on Mental Health and COVID-19, its members analyzed the recommendations for advancing mental health in the Americas. This meeting was held after a broad process of collective reflection and listening to experts and key actors in the countries of the Region.

The third meeting, held in Bogota on November 30 and December 1, was hosted by H.E. Ms. Epsy Campbell Barr, Chair of the Commission; Ambassador Nestor Mendez, Co-Chair of the Commission; and Dr. Anselm Hennis, Director of PAHO/WHO Department of Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health. The opening session was attended by Johanna Marcela Barbosa Alfonso, National Director of Promotion and Prevention of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Colombia.

"We are committed to developing a series of recommendations to significantly advance mental health care, promotion and prevention in order to bring wellness to millions of people whose reality was disrupted by the pandemic.  We will be submitting a report that is going to be a strategy for action on mental health in the hemisphere." said H.E. Ms. Epsy Campbell Barr.

Among the key issues highlighted for the Final Report was the importance of partnerships and the need to prioritize the inclusion of mental health in all policies and sectors. "Prioritization of mental health financing is fundamental, as well as adequate investment with an emphasis on community settings, promoting more person-centered care," said Ambassador Nestor Mendez. 

Another key issue discussed by the Commission was mental health care and service delivery, with an emphasis on integrating mental health into all levels of care, as well as increasing access and coverage of treatment in the community. 

Social and economic determinants of mental health and populations in need of special consideration were also discussed.  "It is necessary to emphasize those groups that have historically been discriminated against, that have to permanently face a reality that hurts their self-esteem, their dignity and that have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as Afro-descendant and indigenous peoples, women, young people, people with pre-existing mental health conditions, frontline health workers, that is, all vulnerable sectors," stated H.E. Ms. Epsy Campbell Barr.

During the meeting, participants discussed the importance of sharing mental health practices and knowledge developed by countries in the Americas that can be replicated throughout the Region. "We also had the opportunity to make field visits and learn about health care models in the communities that will give us another perspective to consolidate a solid and convincing report," said Ambassador Néstor Mendez.

As part of this meeting's agenda, the Commissioners visited various mental health initiatives being carried out in Colombia. They spoke with representatives of Colombia’s National Mental Health Committee, who presented their work, challenges and recommendations. Dr. Gina Tambini, PAHO/WHO Representative in Colombia, was present at this meeting.

Likewise, the Commissioners visited the Santa Clara Hospital, which has a mental health unit with hospitalization and a day center that cares for adult patients, as well as the pediatric mental health unit at the San Blasen Hospital, Bogotá. In addition, they visited the Nuevas Delicias service unit, an outpatient unit from which the Bogotá Health Secretariat develops non-face-to-face intervention strategies, such as the “Psychoactive Line 106", which provides psychosocial support and guidance, and the Psychoactive Line that provides information, orientation, brief intervention and follow-up in relation to the prevention and consumption of psychoactive substances.