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From Iceland — UNICEF Urges Action On Children's Mental Health

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Published October 6, 2021

Desirai Thompson

UNICEF Iceland has sent a letter to each chair of the parties voted into Parliament in the recent election, urging them to prioritise action on the protection of children’s mental health in their on-going negotiations, reports MBL.

Released report

Just yesterday UNICEF published the report The State of the World’s Children 2021 which covers the promotion, protection and care of children’s mental health around the world. Uncertainty, loss and loneliness felt during the COVID-19 pandemic is only exacerbating mental health struggles, making this year’s report all the more pressing.

As the Icelandic winter draws in we’re reaching for our comfy traditional lopapeysa sweaters, the beautiful woollen garments which have been keeping Icelanders warm for generations. They’re available for international delivery through our online shop, and ours are hand-knitted right here in Iceland from local wool.

“We, like many others, are very concerned about the state of mental health services for children and young people in this country. It was made clear during the election campaign that most leaders agree that mental health is one of the biggest societal issues we face today and that the problem is multifaceted. Now is the opportunity to set goals and secure funding for the issue for the next four years, “said Birna Þórarinsdóttir, Chairman of the Board of UNICEF Iceland.

Urging action

Across the globe, one in seven youths between the ages of 10 and 19 is diagnosed with some form of mental disorder, the report shows. Governmental support offered is, by and large, not in line with the breadth of this problem. Just this year in January and February, there was a 34% increase in emergencies in youth compared to the same period last year.

The call to action included pleas for the following:

  • Raise awareness of mental health in primary and secondary schools to reduce prejudice and make psychological services available to all
  • Clarify responsibilities between governmental and administrative bodies
  • Remove excessive barriers to mental health care for children, both administrative and technical
  • Increase knowledge and urge collaboration on the topic within all professions that work with children
  • Improve parent’s knowledge of childhood mental health
  • Ensure youths struggling with mental health do not face unnecessary waiting for care
  • Provide special attention to particularly vulnerable groups of children such as those of foreign origin, those with disabilities and those who are victims of violence

“Despite the fact that free psychological services are available for children and caregivers at health centres all over the country, the waiting time for services is far too long in most places, up to 20 months in the countryside and 3-9 months in the capital area,” Birna shares in the announcement. “This is a long time in a child’s life and it is clear that an untreated problem severely affects his right to life and development.”

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