All children have a right to mental health and wellbeing

Worldwide, 10-20% of children and adolescents have a mental health condition. 1 in 5 individuals living in conflict have mental health disorders. On top of this, more than 80% of children and caregivers reported an increase in negative feelings due to COVID-19. [1]

For years, Save the Children has responded to the unique needs of children impacted by conflict and displacement. In the wake of the pandemic, we've worked around the clock to help to address the immediate and long-term threats of COVID-19, including the devastating toll on children’s mental health globally.

With current support for children’s mental health needs in conflicts is woefully inadequate, Save the Children is proud to support  proud the MINDS Act, bipartisan legislation that would promote mental health and psychosocial support as a key component of U.S. foreign assistance. Join us - Tell Congress to pass the MINDS Act by visiting our political advocacy arm – Save the Children Action Network – and sending a message to Congress.

How does conflict and displacement impact mental health?

Conflict can affect children indirectly. It can even impact children who are not experiencing it firsthand.

In Ukraine, a child swings on a playground swing near a building that has been destroyed in a missle attack.

Even if they are not physically harmed by violence, children can experience toxic stress from witnessing violence, hearing attacks, fleeing their homes. Any child who has been displaced has experienced loss. 

Displacement means a child will have lost secure access to food, shelter, health care, and protection. 

Not all children who experience trauma are traumatized—and we must acknowledge and respect that they are active participants in their lives.

Some children will be traumatized. They may act out, experience increased anxiety, or have internalizing effects such as stomach aches, urinary incontinence, or trouble sleeping.

Getting children back to school and play—and quickly—is key to supporting their resilience.

1. Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) is a composite term used to describe any type of support that aims to protect or promote psychosocial well-being and/or prevent or treat mental health disorder. This includes multiple methods of intervention, from non-specialized community-based support to highly specialised mental healthcare.

2. Toxic stress is a type of stress response that occurs when children experience strong, frequent or prolonged adversity without adequate caregiver support to help them manage it in a healthy way. Given that a child’s experiences during the earliest years of life have a lasting impact on the architecture of the developing brain, toxic stress can have serious and enduring negative consequences on cognitive development and emotional regulation, potentially resulting in life-long impact on a child’s mental and physical health. It is another huge social cost that conflict imposes on future generations. Children are incredibly resilient and are able to recover from psychosocial distress. However, this often depends on the stability of their daily lives and the support that they receive from caregivers, other adults, educators, their peers and the wider community.  And of course, conflict can have a devastating impact on these sources of support and stability for children

Children and adolescents with mental health conditions face major challenges with stigma, isolation and discrimination. They face significant barriers to accessing mental health and psychosocial support services, which is a violation of their fundamental rights. 

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