27 May 2020 / Philip Toscano
UN Secretary-General Calls for Investment in Mental Health and Open Letter to World Leaders Launches
To say it has been a big month for MHPSS is an understatement. On 13 May, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the urgent need for investment in mental health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in a historic policy brief: COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health. At the same time, an open letter to leaders around the world was launched by United for Global Mental Health and the Speak your Mind campaign, which urgently calls for governments to integrate mental health into all COVID-19 responses both now and for the future.
As stated in the policy brief:
“Although the COVID-19 crisis is, in the first instance, a physical health crisis, it has the seeds of a major mental health crisis as well, if action is not taken. Good mental health is critical to the functioning of society at the best of times. It must be front and centre of every country’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”
In tandem, 200 leaders from more than 40 countries, from business, faith, civil society, media and science from around the world launched the open letter urgently calling for mental health to be included in COVID-19 response plans. Among them is our very own CEO of Save Denmark, Johanne Schmidt, and the CEOs of Save UK and NL, Kevin Watkins and Pim Kraan – all champions of MHPSS! Since then, the letter has been signed by over 800 leaders and advocates from around the world. We proudly stand in support of Secretary-General Guterres as well as with the many leaders lending their voices to this critical need.
You can add your voice to these calls to invest in MHPSS by sharing the Open Letter on social media and tagging @gospeakyourmind. The MHPSS Collaborative is working to amplify the message on twitter @MHPSSCollabora1 and we are hoping you will too. Here is some suggested text:
#COVID19 is challenging all of our mental health like never before. 200 experts, business leaders, scientists and key workers from 40 countries are calling on world leaders to protect and scale up mental health support. Will you @gospeakyourmind? https://www.gospea-kyourmind.org/open-letter
Furthermore, the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) has just been launched by OCHA and other agency leads, with a stronger focus on MHPSS within a response plan that has ever been seen before. This represents a great opportunity to integrate MHPSS in all countries’ responses to the pandemic. For the first time, MHPSS is identified as relevant for all the strategic priorities, for all sectors, and as an essential basic need for all vulnerable groups – and measured via a new MHPSS specific indicator that will be reported by WHO. The following agencies included MHPSS activities in GHRP: UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA, IOM, UNRWA and WHO.
To further emphasise this focus, the GHRP states:
“Existing mental health and psychosocial support services should be maintained and scaled up and those developed or adapted as part of the COVID-19 response should be accessible to and inclusive of persons with disabilities, migrants, displaced population, people with pre/existing physical and health conditions and all age groups.”
Prior to the pandemic, the global effort to prioritize and invest MHPSS was severely lacking. Less than 0.14 percent of humanitarian assistance is allocated to MHPSS. We know that mental health conditions around the world are on the rise, and as the Covid-19 pandemic has shown, the time to fight for the crucial investment in MHPSS is now.