Dévora Kestel is a senior mental health policy specialist with more than twenty-five years of international experience in Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America, implementing and advising governments on national policies related to mental health systems.
She is a strong advocate for the rights of people with mental health issues. Ms. Kestel obtained her MSc in Psychology from the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, in Argentina and her MSc in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK. After completing her university studies in Argentina, she worked for 10 years in the development and supervision of community-based mental health services in Trieste, Italy.
In 2000 Dévora Kestel joined the World Health Organization (WHO) as a mental health officer first in Kosovo and then in Albania where she became the WHO Representative to Albania. In both countries, she worked closely with the Ministries of Health to help establish comprehensive community-based mental health systems. In 2007 Ms. Kestel joined the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) as the Sub-regional Mental Health Advisor for the English-Speaking Caribbean Countries, based in Barbados.
In 2011 Ms. Kestel was appointed to the position of the Regional Mental Health Advisor, at the headquarters in Washington DC, providing technical cooperation in the mental health field to the entire region. In 2015 she became the Unit Chief for Mental Health and Substance Use at PAHO/WHO. Over the years, Ms. Kestel has contributed to and co-authored to publications in the area of mental health. Since 2019 Ms. Kestel is the WHO Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use.