Introduction of the Mental Health in International Development and Humanitarian Settings (MINDS) Act is a Critical Step for U.S. Foreign Aid

International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, UNICEF USA and World Vision Commend the Bipartisan Legislative Action

WASHINGTON (June 18, 2021)—Humanitarian and development organizations are celebrating yesterday’s introduction of the Mental Health in International Development and Humanitarian Settings (MINDS) Act.

International Rescue Committee (IRC), Save the Children, UNICEF USA and World Vision emphasized the importance of the bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Casey (D-PA) and in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Deutch (D-FL) and Wilson (R-SC).

The MINDS Act is the first-ever U.S. legislation that addresses mental health and psychosocial support in foreign assistance and is a significant step towards establishing a cohesive U.S. government approach to tackling an ongoing global challenge.

Communities in conflict-affected regions critically require mental health and psychosocial support services, with the World Health Organization finding that 1 in 5 individuals living in conflict have mental health disorders.1

“Today 426 million of the world’s children currently live in areas affected by conflict.2 It is not enough to treat only their physical wounds,” said Save the Children President and CEO Janti Soeripto. “Helping children cope, heal and thrive is essential to supporting the resilience and well-being of the next generation, which is why we are thrilled to welcome this critical legislative effort to advance U.S. foreign assistance on mental health.”

Around the world, hundreds of millions of people struggle with mental health conditions, yet support has been insufficient. Global funding for mental health has never risen above one percent of health-related global development assistance. Even worse, child- and adolescent-specific funding has received only .15 percent.3

Seventy-five percent of people with mental health conditions in low- and medium- income countries receive no treatment.4

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased risk factors for mental illness and compounded preexisting conditions and vulnerabilities.

"UNICEF USA is proud to support the MINDS Act. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the extent and severity of the global mental health crisis and highlighted the need for immediate investment in accessible services and support for children and their caregivers in the U.S. and around the world," said Michael J. Nyenhuis, UNICEF USA President and CEO. "This bipartisan bill would demonstrate the U.S. government’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable children and youth by prioritizing mental health within its foreign assistance." 

“Access to appropriate mental health and psychosocial support at the right time is critical to help children, families and whole societies who are impacted by crisis to survive, recover and gain control of their future,” said IRC’s Head of Education, Jennifer Sklar. “The MINDS act is an important step in acknowledging the devastating impact of conflict and disaster by prioritizing mental health and psychosocial support as part of the foreign assistance interventions.”

Specifically, the MINDS Act:

  • Codifies the position of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Coordinator for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS);
  • Codifies the USAID MHPSS Working Group to promote inter-bureau and interagency coordination and support the integration of MHPSS in U.S. foreign assistance;
  • Requires the Department of State and USAID to integrate MHPSS programming across regional bureaus and missions; and
  • Requires the Executive Branch to brief Congress on implementation of the bill, barriers to MHPSS programing, and overall expenditures on MHPSS programming in U.S. foreign assistance.

"The MINDS Act is the first-ever US legislation that addresses mental health and psychosocial support in foreign assistance,” said Margaret Schuler, Senior Vice President of International Programs, World Vision U.S. “The significant impact of COVID-19, natural and manmade disasters, gender-based violence and conflict around the world, means mental health and psychosocial support is desperately needed now for the world’s most vulnerable children and their families."

[1] https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/mental-health-conditions-in-conflict-situations-are-much-more-widespread-than-we-thought

[2] https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/library/killed-and-maimed-generation-violations-against-children

[3] https://mhpsscollaborative.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Desk-review-The-Funding-Gap-for-Child-and-Family-Mental-Health-and-Wellbeing.pdf

[4] https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/mental-health-conditions-in-conflict-situations-are-much-more-widespread-than-we-thought

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