At high-level event children share inspiring peer support experiences during Covid19 and Secretary-General Guterres urges countries to prioritize mental wellbeing of children and their empowerment

New York, 8 July 2021 - At a high-level event organized in the context of the 2021 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development , the Secretary-General of  the United Nations, António Guterres, urged countries to invest in supporting children's mental wellbeing, through the creation of robust social protection systems.

"As we consider investing in a strong recovery, support for children’s mental wellbeing must be a priority. I urge governments to take a preventive approach by addressing the determinants of mental well-being through robust social protection for children and families. 
Mental health and psychosocial support, and community-based approaches to care, are integral to universal health coverage. They cannot be its forgotten part.", said the UN Chief.

Mr Guterres also called on political leaders to work with children and to take children’s views and experiences into account.  "Children play an important role in supporting each other’s mental wellbeing. They must be empowered as part of the solution. 
Let’s work together for sustainable, people-centered, resilient societies, where all children live free from violence and with the highest standards of mental health." he added.

After an inspiring video with contributions from children from 19 countries who took action to support one another, Special Representative Maalla M'jid highlighted the devastating impact of violence in the mental health of children.

"Exposure to violence and other adverse childhood experiences can evoke toxic responses to stress that cause both immediate and long-term physiological and psychological damage. In addition to the human cost, the economic cost of mental illness is significant. The situation was challenging before the pandemic. COVID has magnified the problem." said Dr. Maalla M'jid.

The recovery phase of the pandemic, provides an oportunity for countries to invest in this field. "We cannot go back to normal. Because what was ‘normal’ before the pandemic was not good enough, with countries spending on average only 2% of their health budgets on mental health. In addition to more investment, we need to change our approach to mental health. Building on the lessons of the pandemic, mental health and child protection services must be recognized as life-saving and essential. They must be incorporated into both emergency preparedness and longer-term planning and children must also shape the design, delivery and evaluation of responses."she added.

The event was co-organized with the Permanent Mission of Belgium to the United Nations, the Group of Friends on mental health and wellbeing and counted on the participation of HM Queen Mathilde of the Belgiums, UNICEF's Executive Director Ms. Hennrietta Fore and the Director of the World Health Organization, Dr. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The meeting contributed to raise awareness of the impact of violence on the mental health of children, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic; to share examples of effective approaches to supporting children's mental health from different regions and in different settings;  to Identify what steps are needed to embed mental health, child protection and social protection services into action to build back better after the pandemic, while also supporting the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030.

More information

Webcast of the event - UN TV link

Video from children taking action around mental health

Individual contributions from children about their work around mental health during the Covid19 pandemic 

Report :Hidden scars: how violence harms the mental health of children

Additional resources about the impact of violence in the mental health of children