Mental Health | UNICEF USA

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How UNICEF Supports Children’s Mental Health

Millions of children around the world suffer unthinkable distress due to armed conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies.

Forced to flee their homes, often separating from parents and caregivers. Witnessing violence. Suffering injuries or enduring pressure and threats from armed groups looking for recruits. Cut off from clean water, proper nutrition, health care and education as their towns become militarized and communities divided — or they are forced into lockdown during a public health crisis.

The mental health and psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 have been significant. Children thrive when they feel safe and protected, when family and community connections are stable, and when their basic needs are met; unfortunately, the pandemic, like other humanitarian crises, disrupted many of those foundations that assure children’s mental health and well-being.

A UNICEF psychosocial support engagement coordinator organizes a fun activity with children in need in Gujarat, India. © UNICEF/UN0378182/Panjwani

Fear, anxiety and stress at home and within families also heightens children’s risk of abuse, exploitation and neglect.

Meeting mental health needs is an integral part of UNICEF’s humanitarian relief efforts

UNICEF recognizes that supporting children’s mental health is just as important as supporting their physical health. This is why UNICEF has made it a priority to integrate sustainable child mental health and psychosocial support funding into global humanitarian relief efforts — to meet all the needs of children in crisis.

It’s also why mental health interventions have been such a key part of UNICEF’s global response to COVID-19. UNICEF’s role in helping deliver COVID-19 vaccines to countries around the world is as much about conquering disease as it is about ending the lockdowns and restarting children’s lives.

UNICEF coordinates alternative care and mental health psychosocial support for vulnerable children around the world. Above, a young recipient of these services, from Kantivaas village, Banaskantha, Gujarat, India. © UNICEF/UN0378208/Panjwani

UNICEF provides mental health and psychosocial support services and training around the world through a range of interventions. These services, adapted to local contexts to meet a range of complex needs, focus on building resilience and the ability to cope with adversity and hardship.

Creating Child-Friendly Spaces for Psychosocial Support

In almost every country and context, UNICEF will work with partners to create safe spaces for children to gather, engage, learn and heal; where they can gain some normalcy in a crisis, playing soccer, jumping rope or making art with their peers; where they can get counseling and receive life skills, vocational training and other services.

UNICEF’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services promote inclusion regardless of age, gender, ability, ethnicity and living situation and are often a collaboration across health, education, child protection and other sectors.

Learn more about UNICEF’s approach to supporting children’s mental and psychosocial well-being.

Children participate in psychosocial support activities at a Child-Friendly Space UNICEF created inside a public garden in Beirut, Lebanon, to help children affected by the deadly port explosion on Aug. 4, 2020. © UNICEF/UNI366088/Choufany


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