Statement at Arria-formula Meeting on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support
Statement25 March 2022
I would like to thank Mexico for organizing this meeting and, express my appreciation to our briefers today- USG Martin Griffiths, Dr. Kestel, Dr. Serafini, Professor Sartorius, and Ms. Mira Garcia.
In recent years, we have all become increasingly conscious of the importance of mental health, even more so since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which placed many people, particularly those living in fragile settings, under unprecedented pressure.
As we have heard today, people with pre-existing mental health issues or psychosocial disabilities are especially vulnerable during times of conflict or humanitarian crisis. Situations such as these can compound, or create additional mental health issues for those involved. It is vital that appropriate mental health supports and services are available for all those who need them.
The impact of conflict on mental health issues has been made crystal clear by Russia’s illegal, unjustified and unprovoked war against Ukraine which is not only causing death and destruction, particularly to innocent civilians, but is having serious mental health impacts on the people affected by this conflict, including the millions forced from their homes.
We should also be mindful of the debilitating mental health effects of conflict and humanitarian crises on women. Conflict often isolates women and increases the burdens they bear, with many assuming the role of sole provider for their families in times that are already difficult.
Such situations often undermine their ability to exercise their agency and their inherent rights. Moreover, and as we have seen in Afghanistan, the educational prospects of girls and young women are put at great risk by violence, too often resulting in long-term adverse impacts on their mental health.
The evidence also clearly shows that instances of sexual and gender-based violence greatly increase both during and after conflict. This too has a devastating toll on the mental health of victims and survivors alike.
Ireland regards mental health and psychosocial support services as a critical component of comprehensive survivor-centered responses. Through our international development programme, Irish Aid, and in line with UNSCR 2467, we have enabled survivors of sexual violence to access medical and psychosocial support in Sierra Leone, and have extended shelter and psychosocial support to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
As a long-standing Troop Contributing Country to UN Peacekeeping Operations, it would be remiss of me not to touch on the effect of conflict and post conflict settings on the mental health of our peacekeepers. These brave men and women work in challenging environments that can have a significant impact on their mental health. We strongly encourage the Secretariat to continue its work on peacekeepers’ mental health matters, and to develop and implement a gender-sensitive Mental Health Strategy for deployed personnel.
Finally, I must refer to the uncertainties caused by climate change, and its impact on mental health. The world is changing before our eyes, with increasing drought, more violent storms and rising sea levels. The phenomenon of ‘climate anxiety’ is becoming all too common, and it has a compounding effect on the mental health of those in conflict and humanitarian crisis situations. Efforts to manage and mitigate the impact of climate change must also address associated mental health risks.