Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the high-level event on the Impact of Violence on Children’s Mental Health, in New York and online today:
I thank the Co-Chairs of the Group of Friends on mental health and well-being for convening this event and for focusing on this important issue. I also express my sincere appreciation to Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium for her tireless efforts as a champion for children and as an SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] Advocate.
Half of the world’s children experience violence in some form every year. It occurs in many settings, both online and offline. Violence has devastating and lifelong consequences for children’s mental health. But mental health services have long suffered from neglect and underinvestment. Too few children get the services they need.
The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the problem. Millions of children are out of school, increasing their vulnerability to violence and mental stress, while services have been cut or moved online. As we consider investing in a strong recovery, support for children’s mental well-being must be a priority.
I also urge Governments to take a preventive approach by addressing the determinants of mental well-being through robust social protection for children and families. Mental health and psychosocial support, and community-based approaches to care, are integral to universal health coverage. They cannot be its forgotten part.
I also urge those in authority to take children’s views and experiences into account. Children play an important role in supporting each other’s mental well-being. They must be empowered as part of the solution.
Let’s work together for sustainable, people-centred, resilient societies, where all children live free from violence and with the highest standards of mental health.