Intense fear, anxiety, and trauma as a result of violence and exploitation have long-lasting and debilitating effects on children’s psychological and physical health and development. On Sept 10, ahead of the UN General Assembly and a mental health in emergencies summit in the Netherlands (Oct 7–8), Save the Children released Road to Recovery: Responding to children’s mental health in conflict. The report states that 142 million children are living in high-intensity conflict zones, with many more millions forced to abscond as refugees. More than 24 million children exposed to conflict today are likely to encounter mild to moderate mental health problems yet, as Save the Children rightly contends, the global response to mental health support continues to be regrettably inadequate.
Shekhar Saxena, Professor of the Practice of Global Mental Health, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, told The Lancet that 10% of humanitarian aid should be allocated to mental health and psychosocial support services, with half directed to children. He added, “If the world does not pay due attention to mental health and the psychosocial support needs of children, we will compromise on the human capital for the future generations. The cost, even the economic cost, will be huge.”
Not only in poor and developing countries children need help in mental health problems: As millions of U.S. children deal with anxiety or depression, schools are trying to help. More than 6 million children in the U.S. have a diagnosis of anxiety or depression, according to the most recent data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds, the agency said. In a TODAY analysis more states in the U.S. are requiring mental health education by law. New York Bill A3887B, signed into law in 2016, requires mental health education to be a part of health education across all grade levels. One of its goals was to enhance understanding and promote human dignity, supporters wrote. „When the law was passed, people were woken up,“ said Dominick Palma, superintendent of the Merrick Union Free School District.
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