Despite the spotlight on this important topic, the World Mental Health Summit fell short of expectations. Much remains to be done to provide emergency psychosocial support to the 160 million children living with war.
More than 2,000 ministers, aid workers and experts gathered in Paris last week for the two-day ministerial summit, “Mind Our Rights, Now! The summit focused on mental health and psychosocial support as a basic human right. Globally, it is estimated that more than 13% of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 live with a diagnosed mental disorder. Children living with war are among the most vulnerable groups and are often denied access to quality treatment.
Despite growing recognition of the importance of mental health and candid statements, the summit ended without a clear commitment from governments and international organizations.
“All children and adolescents have the right to quality mental health care – this statement is simple,” said Mark Jordans, director of research and development at War Child and professor of child and adolescent mental health. “But the question of achievement is much more complex and we need everyone – policy makers, researchers, young people, leaders and mental health professionals – to join us.”
22 years old Patrick kumi reminded the summit of the multiple cultural barriers to accessing mental health care in war zones, refugee camps and other conflict-affected contexts.
It is essential that young people, their caregivers and communities have the tools to meaningfully engage and shape the way mental health and psychosocial support is provided in their context.
“How do we know if a child is better off; if they lose or win from an intervention? Kumi said. “Involve us – children, young people – in the design, monitoring and evaluation of these projects. Train us to be the gatekeepers of these services and to hold us to account. “
So what’s stopping the world from putting words into action? “Frankly speaking – the money,” Professor Jordans said. “Mental health and psychosocial support, once established and operational, does not need to be expensive. It’s about getting it started and scaling up quality evidence-based interventions that require investment.
The MHPSS Collaborative – a hub of key academic and humanitarian actors in the field of mental health and psychosocial support – expressed disappointment at the lack of concrete commitments. “COVID-19 has taught us that no one is immune to mental health problems,” says Leslie Snider, director of the MHPSS Collaborative. “What we can’t afford to do is lose that momentum or break our promises. “
In collaboration with the collaborative and international NGO defending the rights of the child Terre des Hommes, War Child calls on governments to release $ 1.4 billion in funding to expand the provision of psychosocial support in fragile contexts and affected by conflict. “We’ve had discussions, we know what to do,” says Jordans. “Now we have to put words into action. “