Peter Brune, coordinator for the Global Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Network (MHPSS) in Sweden.
In a post-pandemic world, we will see increased need for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) among children and adolescents. Is this given sufficient attention in terms of the humanitarian response in global crisis?
– Definitely not. MHPSS badly needs to be prioritized on the global agenda. Previously, mental health hassometimes been regarded as part of the thematic area of NCD, but now it is finally seen as an area in its own right, which is good.
Peter Brune, Secretary General for War Child Sweden, an NGO, has been asked to coordinate the MHPPS network for implementing the 2030 Agenda together with Anna-Theresia Ekman, PhD-student at Karolinska Institutet.
– It is quite obvious that mental health is central in terms of implementing many of the SDGs, not only SDG3.
The most important focus of this network, according to Peter Brune, is two-fold:
– Combating the mental health-stigma and spreading knowledge on an international level on how to prevent mental illness through early psychosocial support and intervention.
– One in four people will experience mental disorders at some point during their lives. If mental illness is associated with a stigma in society, young people will more often be locked in with their illness instead of getting the support they need. 75 percent of the symptoms of mental disorders manifest before a person reaches adulthood. So, the sooner a person gets support and intervention, the greater the likelihood of many more healthy years to come.
What can a Swedish MHPSS network contribute with in a global context?
– High income-countries have in average 71 mental health professionals per 100 000 people. In low-income settings the proportion is 1 per 100 000. Even with a massive education effort in these countries this gap would take generations to catch up. But we can support existing staff like teachers, nurses as well as parents with shorter educations aimed at strengthening their psychosocial competence.
Peter Brune is convinced that more cross-sectoral cooperation is needed. Especially in times of crisis, natural disasters, or in a pandemic, we are often tempted to solve practical and political issues here and now, well needed, yes, but we will have to pay a very high price if we don’t see the mental health challenges to come from the very start.
– There is plenty of evidence that early intervention and psychosocial support is cost-effective when it comes to mental health. In the end of the day, it is really a matter of following the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Peter Brune’s 7 key recommendations for strengthening MHPSS:
- Focus on children and MHPSS in Swedish development cooperation and humanitarian assistance
- Create a comprehensive system ensuring better cooperation globally and nationally
- Ensure more funding and resources are set aside for MHPSS
- 4. Advocacyfor MHPSS to be prioritized on the global agenda
- Enable implementation of community-based systems
- Facilitate more research on MHPSS and children
- Make MHPSS-inclusion in humanitarian response a standard