The first meeting of the ASEAN task force on mental health is being held in Hanoi from May 23-25, with delegates from regional and global organisations taking part.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Deputy Minister of Public Health, Nguyen Thi Xuyen said the event offers countries a chance to share good practices in protecting mental health, contributing to strengthening cooperation in the region and fulfilling the goal of “Healthy people, healthy ASEAN”.

Xuyen called on countries to build comprehensive strategies to prevent and improve treatment of mental disorders, including paying more attention to enhancing public awareness of anti-discrimination, generating more jobs and providing the mentally ill with health care services, and working closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to build a detailed action plan to address the issue.

During the event, over 70 participants will discuss ways of implementing the ASEAN action plan on mental health for the 2011-2015 period, such as developing the ASEAN policy on mental health, integrating mental health into the health care system, increasing information system on mental health, knowledge management and research, and establishing the ASEAN mental health network.

According to the WHO, over 150 million people worldwide suffer from depression, over 40 million are living with epilepsy and 24 million have dementia. Notably, most of them come from low and middle-income countries.-VNA