In 1996 was founded Armenian Mental Health Foundation. Last years were important not only for us. They were also very important years for progress in mental health reforms in Armenia. These were years of searching for the proper route to achieve real reforms in mental health services. These were also the years of growing activities involving international and national organizations in the field. And of course, most importantly, these were the years when we worked to create a draft of national legislation regulating the field of mental health, a Mental Health Law, to create community-based services and to change the attitude of the society to mental health issues. Tremendous changes, which were initiated in the public health care system, were reflected in mental health services. The transition from " free of charge medical care" to the so called "state order system" with a huge variety of services now requiring to be paid for by individuals caused great shock and concern among general population, many of whom live in great poverty. The lack of information and education about these reforms caused tension, misunderstanding, worry and anxiety among vulnerable groups, especially users of mental health services. The new system of care on top of all the old methods of running the institutions created and creates confusion and misunderstanding.Not withstanding all these enormous difficulties we made a start to the process of reform. How deep and proper will these reforms be? Will they lead to greater inequalities in obtaining Health Care? What further developments can we expect in the field of mental health? Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? These are some of the questions, we were facing during these years. We continued our efforts to support reforms that promote change and transition. In particular we support the movement away from segregating, dehumanising and institution-based models of mental health care and towards more community-based and integrating models. Sadly there is as yet no common approach or clear understanding on the way to achieve these strategic objectives in mental health services in our country. International and national organizations were active during these years. The process of creating new organizations, which have different priorities, continued. One of the most serious achievements of our organization is financial support from EU TACIS/LIEN program. This support will contribute the further development of Armenian Mental Health Foundation and promote the development of NGO sector in the field of mental health in Armenia. As an important component of that development will be the variety of training organized by our partners from InterMinds organization.The most important achievement from the point of view of citizen participation was the establishment of the Users Council of the Armenian Mental Health Foundation. This Council becomes the first publicly organized group of people with mental health problems. And for the first time service users will have possibility to express their own views on existing and future services. For, if there is to be real and proper reform of the service system providers and service users have to make some of these steps forward together. Moreover, already three projects of our organization are run by users and ex-users of mental health services. During last years a serious start towards legislative reform in Armenia was made. During a period of 1998 - 2000 we organized a series of discussions, round-tables and conferences on legislation. Special brochures on legislation were prepared and for the first time published in Armenian. We started at the point when majority of the stakeholders doubted the necessity of legislative regulation and end up with the Board of Ministry of Health of Armenia pointing out legislation as a priority for mental health. At some extend it became even a bon ton to prioritize legislative issues. The creation of a draft of national mental health legislation by the working group of the Armenian Mental Health Foundation, and later the joint draft of special Commission of Ministry of Health in 2000 become the desired achievement. We are committed to continue our efforts and hope that our country will have national legislation.

Since 1999 our organization started to provide a wide range of community-based services. Supported employment, self-help, day centre hotline - these initiatives about which people could only dream even a year ago, now becomes inalienable part of their life. It is difficult to point out one of these projects. But the employment project and self help group supported by British Hamlet Trust charity really becomes a gleam of hope for those who were thrown away by the society and were desperately seeking support. In year 2000 two other very important pilot initiatives are implemented in Armenia. Day center and Supported accommodation projects are coming to show the whole anachronism of the segregated system of care. Both projects are organizing in the framework of OSI Mental Disability, Advocacy Program, which gave a unique opportunity to NGOs all over the region of Central and Eastern Europe and NIS to make a real difference!In 1997 Board of Armenian Mental Health Foundation prioritize work in the regions of Armenia. We would not be submitted with the idea of being a national organization, and sitting in the comfortable office in the capital city. In three years we have implemented different projects and involve in our activity people from practically every region of Armenia. Series of training and seminars in four regional cities, self help project in Vanadzor, support of families of people with mental health problems, work in Nagorno Karabakh, organized regional structure of organization, involvement of users living in the regions in the international activities of Armenian Mental Health Foundation - these are just few examples of our work. The establishment of new facility for out-patient service and the employment project in Kapan, the most far and forgotten regional center in the very South of the country with the support of the British Government is the real wreath of our regional projects. Since very beginning we very active in advocacy.

We pioneered in commemorating World Mental Health Day in Armenia in 1996. Since that time, the whole variety of events was organized on that day in Armenia - conferences, concerts, exhibitions, proclamation signing ceremonies, fairs, etc. Members of Parliament, Ministry officials, Ambassadors were Honorable Chairs of events. Besides we have organized few informational campaigns and worked with media.We could not hide ourselves from issues of protection of human and legal rights of those who need it. Users, ex-users, family members and other active members of our organization were trained as advocates during these years.

Since 2001 Legal Aid Center organized by Armenian Mental Health Foundation provides legal protection in courts and consultations for people with mnetal health problems and mental disabilities.

Another focuses of our activities were educational projects. Targeting mostly mental health professionals and family members, these projescts aimed to provide modern resources to these groups.

In 1999 we with the support of Netherlands based Geneva Initiative on Psychiatry, we estab-lished a library which becomes one of the most serious resource for mental health professionals and NGOs. Also our members and supporters participated in different training and seminars. Finally, we were actively involved in different projects aiming to provide support and rehabili-tation for disadvantaged groups of the population, such as disabled children and their families, refugees, people detained in the forensic psychiatric institutions, survivors of Soviet and Nazi camps, elderly, women. Last years were productive years for us. We grow up from the small group of concerned people into vigorous organization with strong network of supporters and regional branches. We become a leading national NGO in the field of mental health in Armenia. Despite the fact that we have had a very limited budget and thanks to the collaboration and support of international organizations we implemented different projects. We express our gratitude and appreciation for their support.

This web-site contains an overview of our activities.

Dr. Arman Vardanyan

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