Government of Maldives and UNICEF launch National Mental Health Communications Strategy and Campaign
Led by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), the campaign aims to promote social and behavioral change around the current perceptions and attitudes toward mental health in conjunction with national efforts
Male’, 05 December 2022 – The Government of Maldives and UNICEF jointly launched the National Mental Health Communications Strategy and Campaign, led by the Health Protection Agency (HPA). The Strategy and Campaign were launched this evening by H. E President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and will be implemented jointly by Government institutions, private sector, civil society, individuals, UNICEF, and all partners.
Mental health in the Maldives, has been identified as a key area of public health concern, it is also deeply intertwined with economic and social issues, highlighting the need for its prioritization at all levels to ensure a healthy future for all. Considering the high priority to enhance the physical and mental well-being of all Maldivians which is reflected in the Government’s Strategic Action Plan (SAP), as well as the post-COVID-19 pandemic National Resilience and Recovery Plan 2019 – 2023, prevention and promotion have been recognized as key elements of a public health approach to mental health. Strengthening Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services (MHPSS) is also an institutional priority for the UN, and for UNICEF.
Speaking about the importance of early identification of mental health problems, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih noted the importance of seeking support and necessary treatment earlier on. He further highlighted the key role of family, friends and the community in individual mental health and well-being, and noted that the "Kihineh?" campaign would promote social and behavioural change around the current perceptions and attitudes towards mental health.
The overall goal is to optimize positive mental health in the Maldives and allow all partners to work together to improve the mental health and well-being of the people, and subsequently help reduce the number of future mental health problems. This campaign aims to promote social and behavioral change around the current perceptions and attitudes toward mental health, and will run in conjunction with national efforts towards the enhancement of MHPSS at all levels through a holistic approach.
Similarly, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UNICEF Maldives Country Office, in collaboration with its partners, has worked to help safeguard the mental health and psychosocial well-being of children, adolescents, parents, and caregivers, with a special focus on the most vulnerable. This complements UNICEF’s long-standing work across different sectors including child protection, education and health.
UNICEF Maldives Representative a.i. Mr. Paulo Sassarao highlighted that UNICEF promotes a holistic, systems strengthening, and community-based approach to child and adolescent health, development, and protection programming and noted that “children and young people also report psychosocial distress that can disrupt their lives, health, learning and opportunities. Prevention is a key first step towards building a psychologically resilient, more compassionate future generation”.
The number of people suffering from mental health issues is, unfortunately increasing by the day, with every 1 in 8 people suffering from a mental health issue globally. As per the findings of the STEPS Survey on Risk Factors for Non-Communicable Diseases undertaken by the Government and WHO (November 2022), in the Maldives, every 1 in 5 people experience different aspects of depression.
Initially, given the lack of data on the mental health in the Maldives, a rapid assessment was carried out to understand the perceptions within the community on mental health which subsequently informed the direction of the Strategy. The main objectives of this Strategy are to:
- Strengthen individual resilience and build internal coping through emotion regulation, holistic self-care, and compassion.
- Reduce stigmatization of mental health issues and people with mental health issues, through promoting prosocial behavior and building community resilience to create a compassionate and nurturing environment for all.
Minister of Health Ahmed Naseem noted that “The need for mental health services and psychosocial support overtakes the current services available within the system. Therefore, promoting sustainable methods of selfcare when dealing with mental health stressors, a willingness to make transformative changes to ones’ lifestyle, and practicing compassion and empathy when engaging with one another is key to improving ones’ mental health and wellbeing.
Through the themes outlined in this Strategy and Campaign Plan, we hope collective action will contribute to addressing the high levels of stigma attached to mental health and related issues, to promote awareness and understanding of these issues and overall, create a more tolerant, nurturing, and compassionate community.
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 and the work it supports in the Maldives, visit www.unicef.org/maldives