Mental Health Matters - focus on depression and working party activities

Chris Dowrick, newly elected chair of the WONCA Working Party on Mental Health, writes the second of his updates since our conference in Rio - speaking on activities of the working party and also on WONCA's decision to use depression as the theme for World Family Doctor Day on May 19.

Dear colleagues,

I hope you are all thriving, and enjoying some good times in the midst of all your hard work.

WWPMH Officers meeting.

We held our second officers meeting on 1 March, and I am greatly enthused by the energy and activity of our teams across the world. Following from the Train the Trainers course in Rio, Raquel Cardoso and Sandra Fortes are busy organising a whole series of primary mental health care training courses for family doctors across different regions in Brazil; they are also steadily building up the Iberoamericana regional membership of our working party. Cindy Lam is investigating ways to expand primary mental health care in mainland China. Christos Lionis is proposing a new task group on multi-morbidity, and Kim Griswold is keeping a careful eye on how the current US administration's plans to amend the Affordable Care Act will impact on mental health care.

Depression awareness.

There are two big events coming up soon. WHO's World Heath Day on 7 April, and WONCA's World Family Doctor Day on 19 May are both dedicated to raising awareness about depression.
WONCA CEO, Garth Manning gives more information here. It includes  a link to the WHO website where you can find posters, videos and handouts (in several languages) which will help us to promote depression awareness: 

This is a major opportunity for us to remind our patients and our primary care colleagues about the importance of good care for people who experience of depression. As well as making use of the WHO materials, we can also bring our own ideas forward on how to help people with depression. Bruce Arroll from Auckland is developing guidance on the first consultation for depression, which we plan to circulate in time for you to use during these events. I am sure many of you will have other excellent suggestions - please let me know about them.

Families, Systems and Health.

Todd Edwards from San Diego is guest editing a special issue on global mental health for the journal Families, Systems and Health. He would love to receive submissions from members of our Working Party from round the world. I encourage you to take up this offer to publicise the important work you are doing. Here is the link. The deadline for submission is 1 May.

Task Groups.

Our six task groups are all busy developing guidance on some of the most important concerns in primary mental health care - I am very grateful to those of you who are contributing to these. Everyone will have opportunities to have their say - for example, around the end of March I am planning to ask you all for your thoughts about core competencies.

WONCA Conferences.

Calls for submissions are open for the Iberoamericana-CIMF conference in Lima (17-19 August) and the Africa conference in Pretoria (18-20 August). Raquel Cardoso ( is coordinating our submissions for Lima, and Joseph Ariba ( is coordinating our submissions for Pretoria. So please let them know if you would like to present or join in a paper or a workshop. In November, we can also look forward to the Asia-Pacific conference in Pattaya, Thailand - where Weng Chin will be showcasing our new guidance on non-drug interventions for common mental health problems - and the South Asia conference in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Social media accounts.

We do already have Facebook and Twitter accounts for the Working Party. Ray Mendez is now looking after our social media.

Tragedy in South Africa

I have been saddened by the news that many vulnerable people with severe mental health problems have died in South Africa, following the abrupt closure of a private residential facility, without adequate community based provision - you can read about this here. This avoidable tragedy reminds us all of the need to be vocal and vigilant in our advocacy for patients with mental health problems, wherever we may be working.

Wellbecoming blog.

And finally, you may like to know that I write an occasional personal blog about wellbeing, which you can read here. I hope you will find some of the posts helpful for your patients, your families - and even for yourselves. Please feel free to share this with whoever you think might benefit.

Join our working party
Chris Dowrick

Chair of WONCA Working Party on Mental Health