WHO Collaborating Center for Training and Research in Mental Health

 WHO and ILO call for better protection of mental health at work

© World Health Organization

Work and mental health are closely linked. While a safe and healthy work environment promotes mental health, an unhealthy workplace can lead to serious mental disorders. As this issue becomes increasingly prevalent, and the urgency for action becomes clear, the WHO and ILO are jointly issuing new recommendations and policy brief that will lay the foundation for change in occupational mental health worldwide. The WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health, housed at the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine since 1998, has long been involved in this issue and actively supports this process.

By 2022, 15% of working-age adults will be living with a mental disorder. While having a job can be a protective factor for mental health, and even promote recovery, professional environment can have a very negative impact. Stress, excessive pressure, inability to effectively separate work and private life, feelings of job insecurity and harassment are just some of the risks posed by unhealthy work environments. "As a mental health professional, I noticed in my clinical practice, over the past decade, an increase in treatment seeking for burnout, for anxiety, and for depressive disorders linked to overwork, as well as an increase in addictive disorders, including those mediated by Internet, as a means of coping with professional difficulties," stresses Dr Sophia Achab, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health and Associate Deputy Head  at the Addiction  Division of University Hospitals of Geneva.

Without appropriate support, health of affected individuals can rapidly deteriorate. Every year, 12 billion working days are lost due to depression and anxiety, costing $1 trillion a year in lost productivity. Around the world, workers, families, businesses and entire economies are impacted by mental health problems, whether or not they are work-related. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Office (ILO) released 28 September 2022 a report to tackle the pressing issue. The international organisations also highlight the duties of employers and the rights and responsibilities of workers, and identify strategies to prevent the psychosocial risks’ burden at work and to protect and promote mental health and well-being of workers.

Dr Achab welcomes this global initiative: "During my expert mandates and collaborative activities with WHO, and in my roles in Executive Committees of various European and global scientific societies, I am committed to better addressing the mental health of populations, vulnerable groups, and health professionals. There is no health without mental health.

#MentalHealthAtWork WHO Guidelines on mental health at work

WHO Mental Health Report
Launch event on Friday 17 June, 2pm, online

WHO is releasing a major report on global mental health, the first in 20 years. Mental health is so important to all of us, yet it is often neglected. Around the world, mental health needs are great, but responses are insufficient and inadequate.

This report, based on data collected around the world, takes stock of the situation and presents examples of good practice. It also gives a voice to people with mental disorders: the first and foremost people affected, yet their voices are often unheard.

The WHO and its partners call for a much-needed change in the way we understand mental health, support people with mental disorders and fight stigma and discrimination. The WHO Collaborating Centre for Training and Research in Mental Health, hosted since 1998 at the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine, is joining this momentum to strengthen the value of and commitment to mental health, reshape the environments that influence it and strengthen systems of care.



Gaming and Gambling disorders included by WHO in ICD-11 as addictive disorders 

The WHO has officially recognized video game and gambling related disorders as addiction in the new revision of the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11) which came into force on February 11, 2022 .

ICD-11 banner

Gaming disorder recognized as a mental illness by WHO

WHO has officially recognized gambling and gaming disorders as addiction in the new revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

Read the press release here (in French )



In October 2021, WHO approved the redesignation of the Clinical and sociological Research Unit of the Department of Psychiatry at Geneva University, as WHO Collaborating Centre for Training and Research in Mental Health. 

The Centre is active and labelled WHOCC since March 1998. This great achievement has been possible thanks to its strong , close, fruitful, productive and high-quality collaboration with World Health Organization.

Terms of Reference:
  1. Provide technical contribution and support to WHO program activity and technical tools in the areas of mental health, substance use and addictive behaviors, and cognitive aging. 
  2. To support the development of WHO information products on mental health, substance use and addictive behaviors, and cognitive aging. 
  3. To assist WHO to plan, organize and implement education and training activities in the area of mental health, substance use and addictive behaviors, and cognitive aging in accordance with WHO strategies and action plans 
  4. To support the implementation of the WHO strategies and action plans on mental health, substance use and addictive behaviors, and cognitive aging 
Types of activity:
  1. Product development (guidelines; manual; methodologies; etc.) 
  2. Research 
  3. Training and education 
WHO Outputs:
  1.1.2 - Countries enabled to strengthen their health systems to deliver on condition- and disease-specific service coverage results
  1.1.1 - Countries enabled to provide high-quality, people-centred health services, based on primary health care strategies and comprehensive essential service packages
  3.2.1 - Countries enabled to develop and implement technical packages to address risk factors through multisectoral action




We act as international experts for the formulation of scoping questions, the conduction of systematic reviews and GRADE of the evidence for the WHO GDG. We officially and actively participate to the annual mhGAP forum.


We are part of the experts team that collaborates with the WHO to design the structure, revise the content and envisage the piloting, evaluation and implementation steps of the mhGAP intervention guide.


Prof. Albanese has contributed as main author to a number of World Alzheimer Reports in the past years; from the global epidemiology of dementia, to its risk and protective factors and nutritional aspects in clinical management. 


Our WHO CC has been one of the key academic contributor to this WHO historic event, which paved the way towards the development of a “Global Dementia Action Plan” led by the WHO.


Prof. Albanese is part of both the WHO Advisory and Expert groups that have conducted, during 2015 a CHNRI global exercise to establish the research priorities in the field of dementia. The goal of this unprecedented exercise is to assist policy makers, funders and Member States to develop a sound, informed and coordinated research agenda to advance dementia research globally, and reduce the burden of the disease worldwide.

Preliminary results of the Prioritization exercises were presented at the WHO Ministerial Conference in 2015.

As of June 2016, we are finalizing a WHO report and a peer-reviewed publication to maximize the dissemination of the results.

A complex and structured mapping of all funded dementia research worldwide has been conducted. The results of this ambitious survey are now being combined with those of the research prioritization exercise (above) to inform the research agenda optimizing investments.

The purpose of the Global Dementia Observatory (GDO) is to provide evidence-based service planning and strengthening of policies in health and social care systems with comparable indicators. It will include data on burden and impact; policy; services and resources; as well as research and innovation. The Global Dementia Observatory will also function as a knowledge translation and exchange platform.

Our WHO CC is actively involved in the development, piloting and scaling up of the GDO, also in collaboration with the Swiss Office Fédéral de Santé Publique (OFSP/ BAG).

iSupport is an online platform for caregivers and family members of people with dementia. It includes educational and training contents, and a unique algorithm used to tailor the use of the platform dynamically and to best respond to the actual needs of the carers through the progression of dementia.


Our WHO CC has designed and developed the aforementioned algorithm with support from the Association pour la Recherche sur Alzheimer (anciennement Association IFRAD Suisse; https://recherchealzheimer.ch/)

Prof Albanese is part of the Steering Group who gave advice and contributed to the development of the WHO iCOPE guidelines aimed at providing a new evidence-based approach for health care providers for prevention of declines in intrinsic capacity (physical and mental) and care dependence in older age.


Prof Albanese wrote the chapter on epidemiology and impact of dementia.


The WHO CC promotes all research and clinical efforts directed towards a substantial improvement of timely diagnosis of dementia. Prof. Albanese collaborates with Prof. Frisoni and Dr. Idris Guessous (HUG: http://www.hug-ge.ch/medecine-premier-recours/unite-epidemiologie-populationnelle-1) to integrate dementia and cognitive impairment into the Bus Santé annual population-based surveys  conducted in Geneva.

LANVIE laboratory: https://www.unige.ch/medecine/psyat/en/research-groups/935frisoni/




3 mainstreams

Advocating for mental health and addictive disorders and behaviors inclusion and Advocating for mental health of care workers to be considered


We have been designated among 10 other centers worldwide, a national center for testing the ICD-11 criteria for addictive disorders and behaviors (FTC Director- Dr. Sophia Achab).
The results are being published by the WHO.


National Case Studies

Needs for treatment at a Global level

Capacity building of care professionals at a Global level

Covid-19 pandemic impact


We have been part of the WHO Expert Group on Public Health Issues of Internet Use and Addictive Behaviors (Video Gaming Disorder and Gambling Disorder) since 2014.The meetings took place in several countries (Japan, South Korea, Hong-Kong, Turkey, China, UAE).We wrote background papers for the various annual summits and we gave Keynote talks there.