Photo credit: UNICEFNEW YORK, May 12 (IPS) – Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education, can’t wait
To achieve SDG4 for quality inclusive education, we need to make mental health a priority. The month of May marks Mental Health Awareness Month or Mental Health Awareness Week in several countries around the world. Many people will read posts and blogs about getting more sunshine and exercise, avoiding the blues, how to deal with the stress of the pandemic, and how to deal with everyday challenges that disrupt our pursuit of happiness.
For children and young people living in emergencies and protracted crises and suffering from extreme stress and adversity from armed conflict, displacement, attacks on schools and climate-related disasters, the need for mental health and psychosocial support services goes far beyond wellness measures. It requires a sincere understanding of their suffering and a deep appreciation of their resilience.
If we are to take care of our own mental health, it is also crucial that we take steps to ensure the mental health of the world’s most vulnerable people: crisis-hit girls and boys. They can either make or break their torn life, their dispossession, their fears and soul-destroying experiences.
What has become clear to us at ECW and in the entire education sector is the importance of continuing to invest in and deepening mental health and psychosocial support – yes, there is a hashtag for that: #MHPSS – for the broad investment portfolio of ECW.
Yasmine Sherif Every day, ECW and our partners invest in new ways to offer crisis-affected children and young people the security, hope and opportunity of a quality education that really matters. For education to have a lasting impact, mental health must be an integral part of educational responses in crisis and displacement contexts. We want to give these girls and boys the opportunity to find meaning in their suffering, as the great psychoanalyst Victor Frankl wrote in his world bestseller “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Because we at ECW believe that your suffering and pain – with the right MHPSS approach – can also be the turning point to turn your education into a powerful tool for change and performance. Imagine girls like Janat Ara, a teenage Rohingya girl who fled through the night and hid in the woods before finding hope at least in the Cox Bazaar refugee camps in Bangladesh. Janat and other young people like her are now learning again, but they need more support before they can return to a place of spiritual and psychosocial security, and from there the young changers of their community, society and society people.
The Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda for Humanity lay the foundation for the humanitarian and development ecosystem to embark on a new path to ensure that emergency education and protracted crisis programs create safe, protective environments that promote well-being and healthy Promote the development of all girls. Boys and young people – through meaningful, relevant, high-quality, holistic education.
These commitments have resulted in the ECW taking a strong stance: School-based and well-designed MHPSS is a required part of any investment in an ECW country. The logic behind this is that crisis-affected children and adolescents all have great potential and their experiences can enable them not only to learn fully, but to reach their true potential and actually become when MHPSS is of the highest standard.
In the same way, teachers will not be able to successfully support learners if the well-being of both students and teachers is not cared for and supported at the deepest level of understanding of what they have been through and what they can achieve.
Credit: UNICEFAccelerating Support
In order to create impactful public goods that accelerate MHPSS support for girls, boys and youth like Janat Ara, the ECW supports a number of key initiatives:
• Just this month, the ECW announced new grants to support the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Better Learning Program (BLP). The BLP is a proven, evidence-based, school-based and diverse range of MHPSS interventions that help children and adolescents in the Middle East and North Africa heal and deal with displacement, adversity and stress.
• The ECW also announces a new grant for the area of responsibility for child protection. Under the leadership of UNICEF, this priority is promoting localization and coordination to ensure that marginalized children and youth have access to specialized, focused MHPSS support in their schools and communities.
• Refugee children and adolescents have special needs and the ECW works with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to ensure that girls and boys who have experienced displacement and an ongoing crisis have access to support and services as part of their education in the field of mental health. Together we are changing the way in which refugee students are protected and cared for.
• The ECW also works with the Psychosocial Center of the International Union of the Red Cross as co-chair of the MHPSS Reference Group of the Standing Committee between the Agencies. During the unprecedented period of COVID-19 and associated school closings, ECW supported the IASC and IFRC to provide quick MHPSS guides, training and tools to parents, carers and teachers around the world.
• The well-being of teachers has a significant impact on the well-being of students. ECW and INEE’s PSS / SEL Collaborative have partnered to ensure that the mental health and well-being of teachers are protected and promoted in emergency and crisis contexts.
• Finally, the ECW is introducing a new, unprecedented approach to MHPSS based on Victor Frankl’s Logotherapy, which transforms mental health suffering into meaning and hope for the future.
In order to meet the needs of the whole child and effectively achieve the global goals – especially SDG4 – the collective working methods of the partners must be fundamentally changed: education, child protection and health, which work together through joint programming and coordination via existing networks and channels. Further information on the work of ECW can be found here in our MHPSS Technical Guidance Note.
Today more than ever, girls and boys in crisis around the world need the mental health and psychosocial support they so desperately need and deserve. So “these are the ones we have been waiting for,” as Alice Walker once said. They can use it to change the world.
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