The Higher Institute of Public Health (ISSP) of Saint Joseph University of Beirut (USJ) organized, within the framework of the “National Mental Health Campaign 2022” event, the University Diploma in Development and Organization of Mental Health Services awarding ceremony, on Monday November 14, 2022, at the Pierre Y. Aboukhater Auditorium at the Humanities Campus, in the presence of the Minister of Public Health, Dr. Firas Abiad, the Rector of USJ, Prof. Salim Daccache s.j., the Vice Rector, Prof. Salah Aboujaoudé s.j. and the Director of ISSP, Prof. Michèle Kosremelli Asmar.
In her opening speech, the Head of the World Health Organization (WHO) technical team in Lebanon, Dr. Alissar Rady, said that “this diploma is the first of its kind in Lebanon and we are proud to say that it is the fruit of a collaboration between the Ministry of Public Health, through its National Mental Health Program, WHO Lebanon, and USJ, through its Higher Institute of Public Health. This diploma would not have seen the light without the support of the French Development Agency (AFD), which has always worked to strengthen the mental health system in Lebanon.”
AFD’s Regional Director, Ms. Catherine Bonnaud, stated that the Agency is committed “to show and demonstrate that the good health of a population also requires a good management of its mental and psychological health; and that Lebanon, in these times of crisis, is more concerned with this aspect of health than any other country is.”
Ms. Sabine Sciortino, representative of the French Embassy, confirmed that “together with the EU, we are paying special attention to mental health issues, removing barriers and facilitating better access to services, through capacity building of community centers and primary healthcare centers, and contributing to the training of mental health experts.”
As for Dr. Firas Abiad, he explained that “the Ministry of Public Health has a regulatory and monitoring role that ensures the quality and availability of services in a fair and equitable manner, in addition to the role of service provider through healthcare centers and hospitals.” He went on to say that “this role has its challenges and requirements, starting with ensuring the funding and monitoring of the National Mental Health Program, which is a major challenge in light of the current economic situation, in addition to good governance, by adopting a comprehensive approach to integrating mental health as an integral part of the health concept, as well as finding innovative solutions to overcome certain obstacles, such as the adoption of telehealth in the face of the shortage of care providers.”
According to Dr. Rabih Chammay, head of the National Mental Health Program at the Ministry of Public Heath, “one in four people will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime, but only one in ten will have access to the necessary services. This means that reforming national mental health systems should be a priority. In Lebanon, the Ministry and its partners have opted for a long-term vision and approach to strengthen the system at all levels, from policy development to service delivery, in order to transform the mental health system and contribute to the vision of the National Mental Health Strategy whose goal is to enable everyone in Lebanon to have the best possible mental health and well-being.”
“We are proud to present today the first class of graduates of the ISSP, (...) which is made up of 27 graduates out of 31 selected candidates, including 3 foreigners, thus demonstrating the potential of attraction of this diploma in Lebanon and in the region,” announced the rector of USJ, Prof. Salim Daccache s.j. “Allow me to pause for a moment on the objectives of the program, for one must note that it seeks to strengthen the capacities of public health services and health professionals such as doctors, psychologists, social workers and nurses, etc. and other professionals (such as program managers, directors of health institutions, training coordinators, etc.). It emphasizes training on the development, implementation and evaluation of mental health services at different levels of care, in line with the Charter of Human Rights and the needs of communities, while promoting evidence-based approaches and data.”
Testimonies on the importance of mental health were presented during the meeting, and the organizers reminded attendees that a hotline -1564- is dedicated to psychological support and suicide prevention, with the support of Embrace, an NGO.