UnitedGMH contributes to Nordic countries Event on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support.

UnitedGMH CEO and Founder, Sarah Kline, spoke at the Nordic Conference on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) last month. In this blog, she outlines suggested next step actions for Nordic countries to accelerate positive action on MHPSS in emergency settings.

Sarah Kline, CEO and Founder of United for Global Mental Health

By Sarah Kline, CEO and Co-Founder of UnitedGMH. 

At the end of August I spoke at a conference for the Nordic countries on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) in emergencies, A Human Right Left Behind: Nordic Conference on MHPSS in Fragile and Humanitarian Settings.

The aim of the conference was to help mobilise greater political support for MHPSS in emergency situations; and build a stronger case for increased investments and sustainable development for mental health among the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway). 

I outlined why I was optimistic that together we could make progress.

Here are my suggested actions that stakeholders (including governments) from the Nordic countries could take by way of next steps.


1. Press for the UN agencies to prioritise MHPSS in their policies and practice.

As the Nordic countries encourage unearmarked giving to the UN, they need to ensure UN agencies integrate mental health in their strategies and approaches so that MHPSS is funded. For example, the WHO Global Programme of Work is being reviewed now and it needs mental health fully integrated and given greater prominence than in the past.

And the new strategy of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria integrates mental health for the first time in the Fund’s policy and programming, but that needs to be actioned and the Nordic countries can help accelerate progress by aligning their programmes and funding accordingly.


2. Prioritise mental health for high-level 2023 UN political processes and moments: the SDG Summit and the Summit of the Future.

This means full integration of mental health in measuring progress and how to address future challenges regarding the SDGs. And mental health is an integrated part of the overall approach to peace and security, the economy, and the environment, as well as addressing the needs of particular demographic groups such as young people.


3. Integrate mental health across all relevant sectors to accelerate progress.

Use the Women Deliver meeting next year to highlight and encourage action on investing in women’s mental health for the benefit of women, their families, and communities: better maternal mental health means higher birth weight and improved cognitive development.

The UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage in 2023 must conclude with an agreement to treat mental health and physical health as equally important and invest in addressing the comorbidities between physical and mental health.

A Human Right Left Behind - Nordic conference

4. Address the impacts of climate change and the environment on mental health now.

Discussions on response and adaptation need to include mental health. Large numbers of people are being impacted and displaced by changes in climate. Significant numbers of people living with mental health conditions are taking medications that increase their sensitivity to heat.


5. Improve the quality and use of data.

We need mental health much more prominently integrated into the measures we use to determine policies and measure outcomes. From the Human Development Index to the Human Capital Index, mental health needs to be fully integrated.

And we need to use the data we have – through initiatives such as Countdown for Global Mental Health 2030 – to inform and improve programming.


6. Strengthen and uphold human rights, tackling stigma and discrimination, including an end to the criminalisation of suicide.

At the core of successful mental health programmes and approaches is the upholding of the human rights of people living with mental ill health.

In the countries where Nordic stakeholders are active and investing, it is imperative to examine the legal frameworks and the policies and approaches used to address mental health.

Large numbers of countries have antiquated laws and policies: updating these in line with human rights norms and standards will bring long-term, sustainable change.

Examples of how MHPSS emergency funding has been used to achieve such change include work in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Sierra Leone.


In summary, the conference was an excellent opportunity to reflect on the shared commitment across the Nordic countries to accelerating positive action on MHPSS in emergency settings.

It was an honour to join the conversation and UnitedGMH will keep in touch with the various partners present.


For more resources see: