Minds United for Mental Health
War Child Holland is undertaking advocacy efforts to help shape the global policy response to the coronavirus pandemic - calling for child protection and psychosocial support to be an integral part of the world’s humanitarian response. #MindsUnitedforMentalHealth
We have launched an online discussion with video messages submitted by experts and thought leaders from the humanitarian sector and beyond. Each expert will share a video message on what they feel is the appropriate response for the survival and mental wellbeing of vulnerable families - and you can watch the videos below.
Shaping the global agenda
A global agenda will be developed based on the arguments made in the various video submissions. To guide the online discussion a factsheet has been produced based on information from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, as well as input from other sector experts and academics.
This initiative is supported by United for Global Mental Health, the MHPSS collaborative and MHPSS.net.
Science Journalist Diederik Jekel highlights some of the most important things COVID-19 has taken from us: not only our ability to give but also our ability to receive support. The coronavirus is here to stay and we must now start to find ways of dealing with it. We especially owe this to those who are in greatest need than us.
Dr. Ahmad Faizal Perdaus
Ahmad Faizal Mohn Perdaus, President of MERCY Malaysia, works with refugees and vulnerable communities who are increasingly being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Basic items such as food, water and soap are in high demand - and many parents can't currently work or take care of their children who are at home because schools are closed. This is creating an emotional crisis that calls for mental health support.
Professor Joe Thomas
Joe Thomas, professor at MIT World Peace University, says that we should be aware of the unforeseen negative impact of protective measures on children. For instance, children out of school are exposed to certain risks such as abuse, sexual exploitation, early marriage, drug abuse and recruitment into gangs. Even when schools restart, some children may not be allowed to return and others may drop out. Professor Thomas recommends monitoring children after the COVID-19 pandemic ends to address issues such as school dropout and malnutrition resulting from food insecurity during the pandemic.
Professor Erik Scherder
Professor Erik Scherder, Head of the Clinical Neuropsychology at the Free University of Amsterdam (VU) argues that children who grow up in an impoverished environment, or are otherwise maltreated, display a significant deterioration in brain development. This deterioration is particularly visible with regard to anxiety, grief and sadness. His suggestion is to open the discussion on how to restore those brain pathways that are critical to the development of empathy. For example, approaching children with warmth and care but also through music and singing.
Dr. Carmen Valle Trabadelo
In her presentation, Carmen Valle-Trabadelo, Senior MHPSS Adviser for the MHPSS Colloborative, points out that this pandemic exposes the weak spots in how we respond to a crisis as communities and individuals. Some people can deal with stress through community support initiatives without having to resort to direct professional support. Others, however, such as many refugees, do not have the resources to act and are in great need of professional support.
Dr. Unni Krishnan
In his contribution, Unni Krishnan, Humanitarian Director for War Child Holland, talks about emotional care and why it is needed now, if we want to provide effective support or even start thinking about rebuilding societies and rebooting the economy. We can stop the simplest symptoms from developing into serious and complex mental health problems at a later stage. This support should go hand in hand with basic provisions like clean water, hygiene, education, jobs and food.
Dr. Felicity Brown
In her contribution, Felicity Brown , Psychologist for War Child Holland, calls for support to the most vulnerable families and their children. She calls for an intervention that addresses substance abuse, positive parenting, violence and financial stress. An essential part of her approach is to build on strengths that already exist within families.
Dr. Ken Miller
War Child Holland Psychologist Ken Miller provides a few thoughts on supporting refugee families who unfortunately are already dealing with poverty, overcrowding and lack of medical care. Besides helping families meet basic needs, we should provide realistic strategies to support them to stay away from the virus. Using online apps, we can provide stress management and they can receive social support, and we can give them ideas of what they can do with their children or with one another.
Leslie Snider M.D.
Leslie Snider, Director of the MHPSS Collaborative, sees people talk more openly about mental health and wellbeing as they face common stresses and challenges. Her frontline colleagues tell stories about supporting lifelines such as safe spaces and education being exchanged for threats like child labor. Leslie says by responding now we define our humanity, because the wellbeing of any of our brothers and sisters is linked to our own.
Dr. Koen Sevenants
MHPSS specialist Koen Sevenants for Child Protection AoR, calls for child protection measures to be put in place to support children in less obvious situations. For instance, HIV affected youth in South Africa who are impacted by the shortage of medical supplies or the thousands of orphaned children in alternative care in the Ukraine who have nowhere to go when their boarding homes close. These children need protection and support which we should try to provide.
Endowed Professor Trudy Mooren
Clinical psychologist and endowed professor Trudy Mooren of the ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre, highlights the role of parents and parenting to protect and support vulnerable children and families in this crisis- as they play such a key role in the protection and (sense of) safety of their children. What do vulnerable parents need to be supportive parents in these days? First, they need adequate and updated information on the virus and prevention measures, in clear and simple language, so that they can convey this to their children of different ages. They also need to be able to connect to other parents, for exchange and social support. They need connectivity and the devices (phone, pc) to do so. Parents may also need support in managing their own stress - to minimize parental stress negatively affecting their children. Basic needs should be provided to most vulnerable families to alleviate these stressors. Furthermore, psychosocial support should be avaliable online, and later, when possible, through extra measures and facilities face to face.
Ambassador Paul Bekkers
Paul Bekkers - who represents the Dutch government on several international bodies - is concerned about the effect of the coronavirus on vulnerable population groups such as refugees and slum dwellers. For these people maintaining physical distancing is a significant challenge - one that can also have a significant negative impact on their mental health. In his presentation Bekkers calls for increased funding, political support and capacity to address these pressing issues.