Strengthening mental health services for Palestinians, December 2017

December 2017, WHO in collaboration with the Palestinian Ministry of Health, held five workshops in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Gaza in December, as part of an ongoing mental health project funded by the European Union.

Two workshops were held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the rational use of drugs to treat mental ill health, conducted by Dr. Benedetto Saraceno, a psychiatrist and public mental health specialist with WHO, and previous director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO Headquarters in Geneva. The workshops were for mental health professionals, pharmacists and psychiatrists. They aimed to build the capacity of participants in safe prescribing, managing and monitoring drug side effects, and best practices in managing medication for mental ill health.

In the West Bank, Dr. Sudipto Chatterjee, consultant psychiatrist, gave a workshop on Mental Health Liaison Units in general hospitals for hospital directors. The workshop aimed to develop an action plan for implementing Mental Health Liaison Units in general hospitals.

Two further workshops took place in Gaza: the first with mental health stakeholders on developing a Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Emergency Plan; and the second on the development of rehabilitation services within community mental health services.

In Palestine, there are high levels of short-term and long-term stress due to the protracted occupation, which is taking a heavy toll on mental health. Despite this high need and demand for mental health services, there is still a huge gap between the mental health needs of the Palestinian population and the provision of mental health services and psycho-social interventions. The present EU funded project will significantly enhance the capacity of mental health services in both Ministry of Health and UNRWA health facilities. In addition, the project will build up community mental health services and emergency preparedness, as well as support the integration of mental health into primary healthcare centres.