Pre-conference: Addressing pre-existing and emerging mental health challenges in times of crisis and beyond – Strategies, approaches and practices from a European perspective   

Wednesday 9 November, 9:00 – 12:30 CET in Alpha 4 (followed by network lunch)

Organised by:

Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung (BZgA) - German Federal Centre for Health Education and
Gesundheit Österreich GmbH (GÖG) - Austrian National Public Health Institute.


As the economic downturn following the 2008 financial crisis and the current Covid-19 pandemic have shown, (inter)national crisis situations and the socio-economic consequences of public (health) measures taken to mitigate their impact have seriously affected the mental health of populations across Europe, placing an additional psychological burden on those already affected by mental health conditions and psychosocial disability. The long-term mental health burden of these emergencies remains to be seen and is likely to be replicated or exacerbated by emerging crises related to conflict (war in Ukraine), environmental disasters related to climate change (e.g. floods in several European countries) or economic turmoil (e.g. commodity shortages and inflation) caused by such events.

At the same time, the current Covid-19 pandemic has significantly raised awareness of good mental health and well-being among both the public and the scientific community in Europe, providing an impetus for renewed international attention to mental health and the need to step up efforts to address new and existing mental health challenges.

The current pre-conference workshop will bring together experts from across Europe to take stock and discuss strategies, approaches and practices used in different European countries to strengthen the mental stability of individuals and prevent the development or worsening of mental health distress as a result of crisis situations in the population.

Further, it will shed light on initiatives engaged by different countries to improve public understand-ding of mental health and take action to destigmatise mental health conditions. Stigma, prejudice and discrimination against people with mental health problems at the individual, institutional and societal levels have long been a problem that predates the Covid-19 pandemic. With the renewed attention that the pandemic has brought to mental health, this issue is once again high on the mental health agenda in many countries. The workshop will look at different strategies that have been developed in selected countries in Europe to combat mental health stigma.

Programme overview

Prof. Dr. Martin Dietrich, Acting Director, BZgA
Prof. Dr. Herwig Ostermann. Executive Director, GÖG (requested)

The pre-conference will comprise two main thematic sessions of 90 minutes each:

1. Building resilience in individuals and protecting populations from mental health risks resulting from crisis situations

With inputs from Germany, Croatia and Austria. Chair(s): Yvette Shajanian Zarneh, Nathalie Bélorgey (BZgA)

  • Strengthening mental health and resilience of the population and specific target groups during the COVID-19 pandemic by Gabriele Klärs, Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA), Germany
  • Mobile teams for psychological crisis support – The Croatian experiences in dealing with psychological stress in times of natural disaster and war, by Danijela Štimac Grbić, Croatian Institute for Public Health (CIPH), Croatia
  • Learning about psychosocial effects of life crisis situations – A concept for improved data collection and regular monitoring of psychosocial burden, mental illnesses and suicidality in Austria, by Alexander Grabenhofer-Eggerth, Gesundheit Österreich GmbH (GÖG), Austria

Concluding remarks & ways forward
Dorota Sienkiewicz, EuroHealthNet, Belgium

2. Overcoming stigma around mental health – A fundamental challenge under new attention

With inputs from Germany, The Netherlands and Austria. Chair(s): Alexander Grabenhofer-Eggerth (GÖG)

  • Destigmatisation of mental illness - results on the effectiveness of interventions from literature reviews and practical examples from Germany, by Ursula von Rüden, Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA), Germany
  • Developing a multilevel strategy to reduce mental illness stigma using a Mental Health in All Policies (MHiAP) approach in Austria, by Monika Nowotny, Gesundheit Österreich GmbH (GÖG), Austria
  • Ending stigma and discrimination: voices of people with mental health conditions in the light of the conclusions of the Lancet Commission Report by Guadalupe Morales Cano, Fundación Mundo Bipolar, Spain

Concluding remarks & ways forward by speakers

The coffee break between the two thematic sessions and network lunch will provide opportunities for networking.


The pre-conference is financially supported and the registration fee is only EUR 20. Networking lunch and refreshments are included. Number of registrations is limited.