Strengthening mental health and psychosocial support systems and services (MHPSS) for children and adolescents in East Asia and Pacific
Regional report launched to support mental health and psychosocial support
UNICEF, WHO and UNESCO support positive mental health and wellbeing as a holistic, life course issue relevant to every sector of development. Addresssing mental health is also critcial to meeting key targets in the Sustainable Development Goals. In East Asia and the Pacific region, there is an urgent need to strengthen MHPSS systems and services for children and young people. In 2022, UNICEF embarked on a research initiative to identify how MHPSS can be most effectively implemented both in development and humanitarian settings. The research was carried out by Burnet Institute, and supported by a Regional Technical Advisory Group comprised of UNICEF, UNESCO, WHO and the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance.
Four countries were engaged in the process, Thailand, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines, and the research resulted in the development of a regional MHPSS framework. The purpose of the regional framework is to define mental health issues that are a high priority for the region and provide detailed guidance to support implementation, with a focus on describing sectoral roles and recommendations to strengthen a multi-sectoral mental health system. The report also identifies key recommendations to operationalize the framework and highlights the gaps and challenges which need to be addressed, some of which include identified gaps in programmes for marginalized and vulnerable children and adolescents and a limited availability of community based, adolescent friendly multi-disciplinary care for mental health conditions.
The new MHPSS framework outlines:
- A tiered and multi-sectoral package of MHPSS services to meet the specific needs of children and adolescents
- The role of key sectors – health, education, social welfare, justice – in the delivery of this package, and
- The legislative, policy, institutional, capacity building steps required to ensure a multi-sectoral mental health system.
The regional framework defines three key tiers of actions required to ensure mental health and wellbeing of children and adolescents, with systems-strengthening as a cross-cutting theme.
Within each of the three tiers are domains of action as follows:
Responsive care for children and adolescents with mental health conditions
This includes care that is age- and developmentally appropriate, gender and disability-inclusive, and non-discriminatory.
Prevention of mental health conditions in the immediate social context
These actions aim to address risk factors for poor mental health and enhance protective factors.
Ensuring a safe and enabling environment to promote mental health
These actions seek to address the structural determinants of mental health and wellbeing in relation to where children and adolescents live, grow and learn, through policy and legislation, and community engagement.
An important foundation for this framework is the UNICEF Global Multisectoral Operational Framework for mental health and psychosocial support of children, adolescents and caregivers across settings. The Global Framework defines a range of interventions to promote psychosocial wellbeing and prevent and manage mental health conditions, providing guidance to support planning and implementation. While the inception of this research initiative pre-dates the finalisation of the Global Framework, the regional framework has sought to include and harmonise key actions for MHPSS East Asia and the Pacific with the global guidance.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF East Asia & Pacific and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/eap