Warm hart

8 oktober 2019

Gisteren werd de internationale conferentie ‘Mind the mind now’ in Amsterdam geopend door minister Kaag. Haar ministerie organiseerde het geheel, gericht op aandacht voor geestelijke gezondheid in postconflictgebieden. Dit is een actueel thema van de Wereldgezondheidsraad (WHO). Voor de Haagse ministerraad is het een minder geliefd thema en het siert minister Kaag dat zij desondanks de behoefte aan psychosociale, psychiatrische en neurologische zorg op de kaart zet en de mensen in psychische nood een warm hart toedraagt. Het voorwoord van minister Kaag volgt hieronder:

Psychosocial support is just as important as food, water and shelter. It is a basic human right, and we are currently failing to provide it to those who need it most. This is one of the largest public health crises in the history of humanitarianism, and yet it is being overlooked. For too long the international community has sidelined and ignored the importance of mental health in humanitarian and development aid. I hope that this conference will prove to be a turning point. That is why I am deeply grateful for your presence here in Amsterdam.

This is the first high-level conference on mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in crisis situations, and I am humbled that so many experts, representatives, and people with lived experience have travelled here to make it a success. Their voices need to be heard, so that we might find words for what has previously gone unspoken.

This topic has never been given the urgency and attention it warrants. One in five people living in an area affected by conflict is estimated to suffer from mental health issues. One in eleven who have experienced war or conflict will eventually have a moderate or severe mental disorder. In countless cultures it is taboo to speak openly about such conditions and the pain they cause. Many suffer in silence, their voices unheard by those who might be able to help.

Despite the urgent need, only a tiny fraction of development aid is allocated to psychosocial support. This makes MHPSS one of the largest unaddressed global health issues today. If we truly want to help a post-conflict society heal, we shouldn’t just repair bombed bridges and infrastructure, we should also help people mend their broken souls. This is a daunting task, since the trauma of war endures long after the last shot is fired.

We must work to ensure that this mental health crisis is acknowledged and addressed. Over the past few months, many experts and professionals in the field have dedicated much of their time and energy to make the next two days a success. I am confident that if we can bring this spirit of hope and commitment into this conference, we can
begin to resolve this serious omission and finally help those who have for too long suffered in silence.

Sigrid Kaag
Minister for Foreign Trade and International Cooperation