Final Report – "Growing Up in Conflict: The impact on children’s mental health and psychosocial well-being"

The number and complexity of armed conflicts has escalated in the last five years. This has greatly increased the scale and scope of impacts on the well-being of children and presented the humanitarian community with acute challenges in child protection and development. Children are among the most vulnerable victims of war. Growing up in the midst of armed conflict, they experience long-term repercussions to their physical and mental health and psychosocial well-being.
Against this background, and for the first time in over a decade, mental health and psychosocial professionals came together to review evidence and practice in this field, focusing particularly on adolescents. The occasion was a symposium called ‘Growing Up in Conflict: The impact on children’s mental health and psychosocial well-being’, convened by UNICEF, together with the Government of the Netherlands and a wide range of humanitarian and academic partners, in May 2015 in The Hague.
The symposium made a significant contribution to the field of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) by consolidating evidence, reviewing and revisiting strategies, and putting a spotlight on innovative practices that can address both the quality and scale of interventions. The role of MHPSS in addressing the effects of chronic stress and adversity, and in integrating protective/risk factors at multiple levels, was reinforced. The impact of conflict and displacement on wider social structures and on social cohesion and peacebuilding, and the importance of psychosocial support in those areas, was explored. The symposium also made an attempt to draw explicit linkages between mental health and economic, social and political justice and acknowledged the importance of justice as a foundation for mental health and psychosocial well-being.
The symposium was recognized as a milestone and provided new impetus to ongoing work in the field. It also resulted in a series of important recommendations. This symposium report is intended to serve as a useful reference in advancing these recommendations at various levels, ultimately benefiting the children most affected.

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