Mental Health Support is Crucial at all Levels
Being a panel member of a global UN conference broadened my perspective of global health services and needs. Having only worked in a small UK based forensic psychiatric rehabilitation unit, hearing from health-care professionals across the world gave me huge insight into the difficulties services face and the obstacles they have overcome. Working frontline throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough, and a learning curve for us all. Having witnessed the mental health effects of the pandemic first hand, I felt the ‘Mental Health Care for All’ breakout group was crucial in addressing the future direction of mental health services and ensuring we can accommodate the extra demand the pandemic has created.
This particular break out group focused on the following topics:
● Providing effective and consistent early intervention for young people
● How we best support people to understand and manage their own mental health
● How we include hard to reach communities and individuals
● How we include those unable to access digital services offered by the NHS
● Enabling positive coping strategies
● Rebuilding and strengthening our policies and expectations of human rights
● Identifying and addressing key factors making young people's mental health worse
● Support for all generations to adapt a healthier lifestyle and safeguard their physical and mental health
● Supporting young people to identify mental health difficulties, in particular COVID-19 related anxiety
● Involving adult generations to tackle stigmatising behaviour and ideals
● Mental health education in schools
The ‘What Next 4 UN’ conference was a brilliant platform which allowed us to get our heads together and present action points at individual, community, national and international levels to benefit the wider community. I presented the following ideas which we subsequently discussed as a panel:
● Individual: There needs to be accessible education out there to enable people to learn about mental health, so they can better understand and manage their own. This needs to encompass not just young people but those involved in their care as well.
● Community: There needs to be a community based programme that acts as the first step early intervention, rather than waiting until crisis point. This could be based around the successful friendship bench initiative in Zimbabwe, the idea of which could be expanded to other nations and communities. It could be based, too, round peer support mentorship schemes in schools to support those most vulnerable to mental health difficulties. There needs to be a modernised and reformed mandatory system that educates and supports those with mental health difficulties.
● National: There needs to be significant investment in communities to create 24 hour 'drop in' centres with emergency beds for those in crisis. These need to be accessible in communities and have trained staff present. Such drop in centres would be highly beneficial for both early intervention, those in crisis, and those in between that often fail to get support. Additionally, due to the nature of the centres, they would be accessible to the homeless who often have a whole host of mental health difficulties but often slip through the net.
● International: Mass drive in training mental health professionals. This would help to improve the numbers in countries such as Nigeria where they are currently at 1 professional to every 1 million. Such training must be in keeping with best practice guidelines.
For me, as a young aspiring psychologist, I was most grateful for this opportunity that allowed me to connect with like-minded, influential individuals. Hearing of the work they have done in their home countries and the initiatives they have developed was incredibly inspiring. Unfortunately the Global Mental Health Crisis is not one that will go away, therefore platforms and opportunities such as these are paramount in having voices from a diverse range of individuals heard.