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World Mental Health Day in West Bank: “My Mental Health First”, October 2017

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WMHD-WB223 October 2017, Bethlehem – Minister of Health Dr Jawad Awad joined representatives from the World Health Organization and European Union to celebrate World Mental Health Day in Bethlehem Psychiatric Hospital. The hospital hosted a bazaar displaying handmade crafts, candles and embroidery prepared by the hospital’s service users. The event was attended by approximately 200 participants from civil society, the Palestinian Ministry of Health, UN agencies, local institutes and universities. World Mental Health Day is observed in October every year, to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilize efforts to improve mental health.

Dr Awad said: “This hospital is the first psychiatric hospital in the Middle East. It is the only hospital in Palestine that provides practical training for mental health students and occupational therapy for mental health service users. The Ministry of Health is celebrating World Mental Health Day to demonstrate our commitment to integrating mental health in all health facilities. We are also committed to adopting occupational therapy for mental health service users to assure their integration in society.”

A celebration also took place last week in Gaza, with a football tournament to raise awareness about mental health issues. The two events are part of an ongoing project funded by the EU Building Palestinian resilience: improving psychosocial and mental health responses to emergency situations. This project addresses important gaps in the development of mental health services in Palestine, particularly in relation to mental health emergency response in Gaza, and seeks to build the capacity of health institutions to detect and respond to mental health needs.

WMHD-WB1Explaining more on the project, Dr John Mahoney, WHO Mental Health project manager said:   “Mental ill health is extremely common and will affect up to 300,000 women, children and men in the West Bank. Furthermore, people with long-term medical conditions (such as heart disease or diabetes) will have much worse outcomes if they also suffer from depression. Studies have shown up to three in ten people with long-term medical conditions also suffer from depression or other mental illnesses. Of particular concern, a recent study in the West Bank and Gaza showed that 30% of Palestinian women suffer with depression after childbirth. This can have a serious effect on both the mother and child”.  Dr Mahoney expressed the sincere gratitude of WHO to the EU for its ongoing support since 2007 to improve the mental health of Palestinians.                                                                                                                                                                                                

Tomas Niklasson, the EU Deputy Representative, underlined the importance of mental health support to Palestine.  He stated: “The EU’s support to mental health in Palestine is driven by facts and realties. Mental health is important at every stage, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. In Palestine, more people are suffering from high levels of stress and mental health problems. This project will provide tangible support to Palestinians with regards to mental health services. This is vital not only for the short run, but also to build the foundations of a future Palestinian State in which all citizens are treated equally and have access to health services.”

Palestinians experience high levels of stress due to the protracted occupation, which is taking a heavy toll on mental health. Despite the high need and demand, there remains a substantial gap in the provision of mental health services and psycho-social interventions in the occupied Palestinian territory. The present EU-funded project aims to build the capacity of mental health services in both Ministry of Health facilities and primary health clinics of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

For further information, please contact:

Rajiah Abu Sway

WHO, Jerusalem office
Tel: 00972547179037
email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Read the Press Release in Arabic 

World Mental Health event in Gaza