Strengthening mental health and psychosocial support systems and services (MHPSS) for children and adolescents in East Asia and Pacific

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, ThailandMalaysia, 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.

domains of action

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.

The regional report and country reports are currently available in English here.

This article was originally published by UNICEF here.