Speech by Tom de Bruijn at Mind Our Rights, Now!, Third Global Mental Health Summit
Speech by Tom de Bruijn, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, at Mind Our Rights, Now!, Third Global Mental Health Summit, Paris, 5 October 2021.
Your Majestey, Ladies and gentlemen,
The speakers before me have made clear how important it is that we strengthen our efforts on mental health.
As mentioned by The Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development in 2018, the lack of awareness of the value of mental health in social and economic development is one of the barriers to sustainable development.
Two years ago, at the second Global Mental Health Summit in Amsterdam, this awareness stood at the core of our joint commitment to provide access to mental health and psychosocial support to people affected by crisis situations.
The COVID pandemic has truly shown that psychosocial wellbeing is needed for societies to bounce back. And that being prepared to address psychosocial needs is a must.
But being aware is not enough. We also must act.
And here, I’d like to emphasise the value of the humanitarian experience.
Not only for humanitarian settings, but also for the crisis in which we all find ourselves.
As remarked in The Lancet in February this year, many guidelines in response to COVID-19 were grounded in approaches to Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in humanitarian settings that pre-dated COVID.
… And in the experience of implementing MHPSS services in lower middle income countries.
… Many of these countries were fast in providing psychosocial services as part of their national COVID-19 response plans.
Moreover, when COVID struck, the Red Cross and Red Crescent were among the first responders to the pandemic.
Their experience with addressing psychosocial needs in humanitarian settings was put into practice around the world.
Local campaigns, such as ‘Behind the mask’ in Zambia, turned the invisible, psychological effect of COVID measures into something tangible and to be discussed.
Yes, it is possible to include psychosocial support in broader programmes.
Just look at the guidance materials developed by the Inter Agency Standing Committee reference group on MHPSS.
Or it’s children’s storybook ‘My Hero is You’
… that within weeks was translated into over a hundred languages by volunteer experts.
… And of which a sequel has just been launched.
Many tools exist for humanitarian action on MHPSS.
I’m proud to mention our Rapid Deployment system:
… that deployed over 20 MHPSS professionals to a range of countries,
… so that mental health and psychosocial support could be included in programmes for people who need it most.
Then there is the Minimum Services Package currently under development by the World Health Organization and other UN agencies:
… a catalogue of Mental Health and Psychosocial interventions
… that not only helps humanitarian responders to identify actions
… but also to adapt them to the context in which they work.
…To ensure high-quality and rights-based psychosocial support.
So, the humanitarian world is showing that it is possible.
Still, a lot remains to be done.
Politicians, planners and programmers still perceive mental ill health as being extremely difficult to address.
And therefore tend to push mental health off the agenda.
This is not the way forward.
After all, we cannot reach the SDG’s if we do not address mental resilience.
It’s why we should include attention for mental health and psychosocial needs in projects and programs.
This is also the Netherlands’ message to the World Bank during the negotiations on the next funding period (the IDA20 replenishment).
Together, and in all our endeavours, we need to provide whatever it takes for men, women and children to be able to bounce back and to thrive.
So I call on all of you here:
… to learn from the humanitarian system;
… to join forces;
… to make use of existing expertise;
… and to increase capacity,
… to make sure that mandates and budgets across all sectors explicitly include mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. Mind the Mind. And, of course, Mind Our Rights. Thank you.