Why Promoting and Protecting Mental Health in Times of Change Matters

MENTBEST - Good Mental Health

We all have the right to good mental health.

Being mentally healthy is more than the absence of mental health problems. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO)1, mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises their abilities, copes with everyday stresses, works productively and contributes to their community.

Mental health is an indispensable part of health; there is no health without mental health. However, it is widely recognised that mental health is frequently under-resourced and underfunded.

The WHO recognises World Mental Health Day (WMHD)2 on October 10 every year. The theme of this year is “Mental Health is a Universal Human Right”, and the main aim is to improve knowledge, raise awareness and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health as a universal human right.

WMHD started as an annual activity of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH)3 on October 10 1992. Since 1994, it has selected a theme for every year, and this year’s celebration coincides with the 75thAnniversary of the foundation of the WFMH in 1948. According to Professor Gabriel Ivbijaro MBE JP (WFMH Secretary-General):

“This year’s theme enables us to re-double our efforts to ensure that everybody should receive quality mental health care and that the human rights and well-being of people with mental illness are respected in all parts of the world so that every person with a mental health difficulty has:

  1. The right to be protected from known harms to mental health; a universal right which applies to the entire population, but especially the vulnerable including children, minorities and the displaced peoples.
  2. The right to access quality and affordable care when a person is struggling with their mental health.
  3. The right to freedom and dignity, including the right of choice.”

Despite all that is known about the importance of having good mental health and well-being, there is still a long way to go, and decision-makers need to take action. In this sense, the WHO and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will launch on October 9, 2023, an important new publication titled “Mental Health, Human Rights and Legislation: guidance and practice”, which provides guidelines for policymakers, legislators and other stakeholders on how to develop, implement and evaluate of mental health-related legislation following a rights-based process.4

Access to community-based mental health support should be promoted as a priority globally, especially in times of dramatic social changes.

Image by Mojtaba avanbakhsh (Unsplash)

An essential key message of this year’s campaign is that good quality community mental health services are crucial for all our futures.2 According to the WHO1, these interventions are more accessible than institutional care, help prevent human rights violations and deliver better recovery outcomes.

Although mental health is a universal human right, more than 1 in 10 people are living with a mental health condition at any one time, and treatment coverage – including community-based mental health support- is considerably poor worldwide, especially in low and middle-income countries.4 Moreover, some vulnerable groups face more barriers than others to good mental health, especially during dramatic social changes, such as war, climate change, migration, economic crisis, pandemics, ageing and demographic change.

When people have to adapt to fast-changing situations, a significant increase in stress can trigger mental health issues, including mental distress, reduced well-being and sub-diagnostic depressive and anxiety syndromes, but also mental health conditions and greater suicide risk. That is why focusing on those at greater risk is important—for instance, people who are living with mental health conditions.

Evidence-based research in mental health provides effective tools and improves the quality of mental health services.

MENTBEST - Mental Health 1

Image by Helena Lopes (Unsplash)

There is a need to increase high-quality research on multifaceted intervention programmes, such as community-based interventions, as they can effectively mitigate the negative impact on mental health and well-being in rapidly changing environments. These interventions target mental health literacy, resilience, and mental-health-related stigma and boost self-help competency in the broader community and vulnerable groups.

In MENTBEST (Protecting Mental Health in Times of Change), we are committed to preventing and mitigating the mental health challenges associated with dramatic and rapid changes in Europe, focusing on those who are at greater risk.

Several MENTBEST partners, led by the European Alliance Against Depression (EAAD),5 have developed, delivered and validated a robust and effective community-based intervention programme that prevents and mitigates clinical depression and suicidal behaviour. This intervention combines simultaneous activities targeted at four levels (EAAD 4-level approach):

  • Level 1: Primary care and mental health care providers.
  • Level 2: The general public in the community (awareness campaigns).
  • Level 3: Community facilitators, gatekeepers and stakeholders.
  • Level 4: Patients, high-risk groups and relatives.

The EAAD four-level intervention has shown to be effective6,7 and has been adopted by more than 120 communities in 17 EU countries.8,9

MENTBEST is a five-year EU-Horizon Europe-funded project led by the EAAD. The project’s Consortium is composed of a multidisciplinary team of 13 leading experts in mental health and well-being from across Europe. The main aim of the project is to develop, implement, validate and evaluate a Comprehensive Multifaceted Community-based Intervention (“COMBINA”) based on the proven EAAD intervention programme but adapted and broadened for the specific needs of the following vulnerable groups:

  • Migrants and refugees.
  • Younger people.
  • Older adults.
  • Long-term unemployed.
  • Those who suffer from mental health conditions.

COMBINA will be tested in Albania, Estonia, Greece, Ireland and Spain. In addition, MENTBEST will also use innovative technology to design, develop and test an app driven by artificial intelligence in Denmark, Germany and Spain to enable people to use their long-term smartphone-generated data to aid their mental health self-management.

EU countries where MENTBEST's community-based intervention will be tested

EU countries where MENTBEST’s community-based intervention will be tested

More information about the project and the MENTBEST Consortium can be found at

Kerry Rodríguez McGreevy, Psychologist, PhD
WHO Collaborating Centre for Mental Health Services Research and Training.
Department of Psychiatry. School of Medicine. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid >


  1. World Health Organisation (WHO) (2022). Newsroom. Mental Health.
  2. World Health Organisation (WHO) (2023). World Mental Health Day 2023.
  3. World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) (2023). About The World Mental Health Day.
  4. World Health Organization (WHO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) (2023). Mental health and human rights.
  5. European Alliance Against Depression (EAAD) (2023). EAAD Project. 4-level approach.
  6. Hegerl, U., Wittenburg, L., Arensman, E., Van Audenhove, C., Coyne, J. C., McDaid, D., … & Bramesfeld, A. (2009). Optimising suicide prevention programs and their implementation in Europe (OSPI Europe): an evidence-based multi-level approach. BMC public health, 9(1), 1-8.
  7. Hegerl, U., Maxwell, M., Harris, F., Koburger, N., Mergl, R., Székely, A., … & OSPI-Europe Consortium. (2019). Prevention of suicidal behaviour: Results of a controlled community-based intervention study in four European countries. PloS one, 14(11), e0224602.
  8. Hegerl, U., Rummel-Kluge, C., Värnik, A., Arensman, E., & Koburger, N. (2013). Alliances against depression–A community based approach to target depression and to prevent suicidal behaviour. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(10), 2404-2409.
  9. Hegerl, U., Heinz, I., O’Connor, A., & Reich, H. (2021). The 4-level approach: Prevention of suicidal behaviour through community-based intervention. Frontiers in psychiatry, 12, 2192.

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