The World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation (WAPR) was established in 1986 in France, when about 100 professionals from 35 countries met at its founding congress. This congress was preceded by an extensive international planning process, which began with the First World Congress on Rehabilitation for the Mentally Ill in Helsinki, in 1970. Subsequent meetings of key professionals and agency representatives from various countries, mainly supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Office, resulted in the formation, in 1980, of a promoting group which planned, through its international secretariat, the foundation of the WAPR. Therefore, close links with the mental health programme of the WHO have been maintained by the WAPR since its beginnings. Dr Benedetto Saraceno, past director of the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Dependence, was President of the WAPR between 1993 and 1996.
WAPR has organized 13 World Congresses, one every three years, in all regions (Barcelona, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Paris, New York 2003, Athens 2006, Bangalore 2009, Milano 2012, Seoul 2015), and numberless national or regional conferences. WAPR also organizes trainings in collaboration with local partners. WAPR operates as technical advisor of local policymakers in mental health
The growth of the WAPR in the following years reflected the increasing importance of the prevention and reduction of social disability as a framework for the long-term community care of people with severe mental disorders. Today, the WAPR is recognised as a non-governmental organization with consultative status with the WHO, the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council, and the International Labour Office. Moreover, it also maintains relations with the European Commission and the African Rehabilitation Institute.