On April 7, 2017, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) celebrates the World Health Day, and this year’s campaign is about “Depression: let’s talk”. Depression is a common mental disorder that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. Support available for people with mental health disorders is limited in many countries of the world. In the Americas, the depression treatment gap can reach as high as 65%; six out of ten people with depression don’t get the treatment they need.  

In the framework of the world health day, PAHO’s Virtual Campus of Public Health (VCPH) wants to share some of the activities offered with regard to mental health, organized in strong collaboration with the Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health Department, Unit of Mental Health and Substance Use (MH/NMH). These initiatives aim to support the training of health workers to provide first-line health-care for mental health.

The VCPH offers a variety of online courses, both in English and in Spanish, to maintain a continuous education process and improve the skills of the workforce and practices of public health. Recently, it offered an online course about Mental Health Services Management, and its learning resources are open access and available here.

In 2016, in collaboration with the Unit of Mental Health and Substance Use, the VCPH offered a Spanish online training, based on WHO’s Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) Intervention Guide, which aimed to train primary health care providers in the proper diagnosis and first-line management of mental health problems. This is a tool for scaling up care for mental, neurological and substance use disorders and to improve access to care for mental health problems by integrating mental health into Primary Health Care (PHC). This course is now open for application –in its English version—as a course with tutoring, and aims to strengthen capacity for the integration of mental health into PHC across the Caribbean. More information about this course is available here.

The development of mental health competencies for primary health care is a priority for the countries in the region, and the VCPH—as a technical cooperation strategy—along with the Mental Health program, supports these efforts, providing relevant materials and resources to expand health-workers’ training in mental health care.