On Wednesday September 25, in parallel with the 74th UN General Assembly meeting, HealthRight International, the Spouses of CARICOM Leaders Action Network (SCLAN), and New York University’s College of Global Public Health jointly hosted a side event entitled No health without mental health: Time to act and invest in adolescents! This event was dedicated to adolescent mental health among vulnerable populations.
The event featured a panel of distinguished speakers, including:
- Kim Simplis Barrow. First Lady of Belize, who is a tireless advocate for women and children,
- LeConté J. Dill, Director of Public Health Practice and Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the NYU College of Global Public Health,
- Keng-Yen Huang, Associate Professor of Population Health and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone School of Medicine,
- Patrick Jennings, Founder/President of the Patricia K. Abanilla Organization for Pinoy Children’s Mental Health,
- Sahar Vasquez, Co-founder of Mind Health Connect Belize,
- Danielle Engel, UNFPA Technical Specialist for Adolescents and Youth.
H.E. Mrs. Granger, First Lady of Guyana opened the parallel session, which highlighted the current status of global adolescent mental health, best practices and innovations, and the need for harmonized donor investment. The event brought together NYU faculty and students, UN agencies, state dignitaries, foundations, NGOs, and the private sector.
During a particularly poignant moment of the event, Sahar Vasquez shared her story of living with mental illness for most of her life and turning her own pain into momentum to co-found Mind Health Connect Belize, an organization that is committed to ending the stigma against mental health and helping people get the treatment and care they deserve.
Adolescents are the future leaders of our societies, yet they remain among the most vulnerable populations for mental illness. The event emphasized the critical need that we need to act and invest now to improve the health and well-being of our adolescents, especially those that are vulnerable and marginalized. The call to action included inclusive mental health policies, better data collection on adolescent mental health, and meaningful engagement of youth in advocacy, programming and evaluation.