Placing the mental health of children and young people at the heart of COVID-19 recovery – World
Placing the mental health of children and young people at the heart of COVID-19 recovery – World

Placing the mental health of children and young people at the heart of COVID-19 recovery – World

WHO / Europe and Greece launch new joint agreement for 53 countries in Europe, Central Asia

COPENHAGEN / ATHENS, 21 March 2022

Today, the Ministry of Health of the Hellenic Republic and the WHO Regional Office for Europe launched a new program to support and promote the quality of mental health care for children and young people in all 53 countries in the WHO European Region.

Launched at an official ceremony held at the Hellenic Ministry of Health and marking the opening of the WHO’s new quality office in Athens, the program is the result of an ongoing partnership and collaboration between WHO / Europe and the Greek government across the health system spectrum — including the important area of ​​care quality and patient safety.

Childhood and adolescence are critical stages of life for mental health as this is a time when rapid growth and development takes place. Unfortunately, the mental health of children and young people in the WHO European Region has been under significant strain in recent years, first due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now for the millions of children currently affected by the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. During the pandemic, school closures and closures left children isolated, away from their peers and unable to optimally socialize and grow.

“Mental health and well-being is a fundamental human right that should be at the heart of our health systems and the key to recovery from the COVID-19 emergency. The pandemic has affected everyone in society, but the most vulnerable, including children and young people, have suffered the most. “said the WHO’s Regional Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge. “The new program we are launching today, in partnership with the Greek Government, will support millions of children and young people throughout our region with concrete steps and solutions to improve and promote their mental health and the quality of mental health services, “available to them. This in turn will lay a strong foundation for broader health and well-being across the entire life cycle.”

“When we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are in a position of unrivaled opportunity. This is the opportunity to prepare for the future resilience of our health systems,” said Athanasios Plevris, Health Minister of the Hellenic Republic. “Our greatest virtue is our health. And I’m proud to see that the quality of health care is at the heart of our agenda.”

Building strong and high quality mental health services for future generations

The new WHO program will provide an answer to the mental health challenges posed by the negative effects of the pandemic, while bearing in mind the impact of the current humanitarian crisis in Ukraine on the mental health of the millions of children and young people who is affected. .

Experiencing armed conflict, war, forced expulsion or family separation can have huge and often long-lasting negative consequences for people’s mental health, especially for vulnerable groups such as children and young people.

Problems can arise during safe passage, such as relapse into pre-existing conditions, anxiety or stress that basic needs are being met, and undermining of society’s support structures that may prevent traditional ways of coping from being used.

“Clearly, whether it’s due to an unprecedented pandemic or a sudden humanitarian crisis, meeting people’s mental health needs — especially children and young people — must be at the heart of any functioning health system. We look forward to to work closely with all 53 countries in our region to make this a reality, “said Dr. Kluge.

Children and young people who are happy and confident are likely to take this into adulthood and more easily build resilience in the face of adversity. However, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among young people globally, and suicide is the fourth most common cause of death among 15-19 year olds.

Through the new program, WHO / Europe will work with countries to improve the mental and emotional health of their younger populations through:

  • Support for the development of national strategies and frameworks and the sharing of experiences. Many countries have already developed successful approaches, but many require a common platform to share knowledge and expertise. The new WHO program will better enable this.
  • Expertise in translating results and experiences into practical tools and policies that support children and young people’s needs for mental health.
  • Establishment of an inventory of the quality of care for children and young people’s mental care systems in the Mediterranean and South-Eastern Europe.
  • The development of a package of tools to measure clinical process in relation to evidence-based standards.

Builds on strong partnership and collaboration

Greece is not new to joint initiatives with WHO / Europe in support of mental health care.

In July 2021, the WHO / Europe and Greek governments jointly hosted a high-level summit that culminated in an appeal that mental health should be placed at the heart of the post-pandemic recovery process.

At the national level, Greece has prioritized mental health and has included it in its national recovery plan.

Greece also boasts a significant number of child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychologists, who will contribute to the creation of a network of psychiatric professionals working in this field and the establishment of solid protocols and guidelines.


Editor’s note:

That WHO Center of Excellence for Quality of Care and Patient Safety in Athens opened its doors in April 2021, and today’s event marks its inauguration in its official premises.

The office was established with a vision to improve the quality of care and patient safety, inspired by WHO European Work Program (EPW) – Joint efforts for better health in Europe. The Office supports the countries’ efforts to build an effective and resilient health system — now also through the inclusion of high-quality mental health services for children and young people.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO Regional Office for Europe made mental health one of its flagship areas of work. In September 2021, WHO / Europe launched the first pan-European mental health coalition ever, a partnership dedicated to improving mental health throughout the region. Interested organizations and individuals with mental health expertise are encouraged to join the coalition by completing ‘Join the Pan-European Mental Health Coalition’ form.

That WHO European Regional Office supports 53 countries and territories seeking to deliver the European Work Program 2020-2025.

For more information, including media interviews, please contact:

Ramy Srour, WHO / Europe: [email protected]; [email protected]

Alexandra Klidara, Ministry of Health of Greece: [email protected]

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