Children, young people, government leaders, mental health experts, celebrities, and key opinion leaders joined UNICEF on Wednesday in an event to celebrate World Children’s Day in Hanoi.
That is a day when the commitments made by governments to respecting and protecting the rights outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child are reaffirmed, a day for children, by children, UNICEF said in a press release issued the same day.
This year’s event, co-organized by UNICEF and the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA), highlighted the importance of the strongest possible mental health of children, making the case for quality investment and action to support, nurture, and protect the mental health of all children and adolescents.
With life, education, expectations, and relationship pressures, the incidence of mental health challenges has been a concern for many years.
The incidence is increasing for children who are stigmatized as different, feeling overwhelming parental pressures, and isolated by abuse, neglect, and other childhood adversities.
Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, children across the world are exhibiting a worrying level of anxiety, fear, insecurity, and uncertainty.
In many countries, the pandemic has led to escalating levels of self-harm and suicide.
In focusing World Children’s Day on mental health, UNICEF and MOLISA expressed their belief that there cannot be a more important moment to pause, to focus, and to create a more understanding, more accepting, and more supportive world for children.
The focus of the event was to share an understanding of just how threatened and challenged children feel and create momentum and commitment to nourishing positive mental health as well as to encouring children and adolescents to speak their truth, to share their worries, and to feel safe in being honest about not being okay.
Key messages for this day reinforce that ‘it’s ok not to feel ok’ and that rather than disguising and hiding their pain, children should share their truth, help each other speak up, and get support.
Mental health, like physical health, must be nurtured. There are activities that nourish positive mental health and that schools and communities can practice and reinforce.
“In the last two years, the impact of this pandemic has been measured across every area of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we experience regression in the achievement of all rights, we see more and more children left behind,” said Rana Flowers, UNICEF representative to Vietnam.
“The pandemic has shone a light on insufficiently addressed areas like violence, digital access or child labor, but it has also highlighted just how much the turmoil in the outside world can affect the world inside our heads.
“It has made so much more obvious that good health is not just about physical health – it is about our mental health [as well].
“Isolated from friends, deprived of routines, confronted with fear, grief and uncertainty, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of children and young people’s mental health and well-being.”
|This supplied photo shows children and delegates at an event to celebrate World Children’s Day in Hanoi, Vietnam, November 17, 2021.
As the COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on children and young people, MOLISA Deputy Minister Nguyen Thi Ha called for more attention and stronger action from relevant government agencies in improving mental health of children and caregivers by implementing practical and sustainable solutions, such as strengthening communication and education on parenting to early detect and reduce psychological trauma for children as well as applying multi-sectoral approach in health, education, and social protection of children's mental health and psychosocial care.
At the event, children and young people told their own stories, highlighting the fact that the lack of awareness and social stigma are primary factors preventing them from getting the help they need.
They also emphasized the importance of having appropriate mental health and psychosocial support services for children and young people in Vietnam.
In the role of a mental health expert, Dr. Tran Thanh Nam talked to the children and assured them that mental health exists on a continuum that can include periods of well-being and distress, most of which will never evolve into a diagnosable disorder.
“We all have days that are better than others,” Dr. Nam said.
“Sharing your bad days is just as important as sharing your good days.
“It can be hard to open up, even with the people you trust, but it's the first step to getting the support you may need.”
As parents, writer Trang Ha, TV host Thao Van, and singer Duy Khoa emphasized that positive parenting and supportive relationships with children, combined with open, honest, and stigma-free conversations, are essential for children’s and young people’s positive mental health and well-being.
They also agreed that many parents need support to fulfill this critical role.
A Tiktok challenge was kicked off on the same day.
Taking the idea of ‘disconnect to reconnect,’ the challenge encourages children to separate themselves from digital devices and spend time with families, friends, and experience the real world.
World Children’s Day is celebrated globally on November 20 every year to mark the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
During the past several years, World Children’s Day has been a fun day with a serious message where UNICEF highlights the most pressing issues facing children, celebrates the progress, energizes leaders, and addresses the work that still needs to be done.
It is also the time for children around the world to unite to raise their voices.