Mental health is vital to humanity, allowing us to lead fulfilling lives and contribute fully to our communities...Mental health is not a privilege, but a fundamental human right. --United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres
On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, marked on 10 October every year, we salute the 60+ UN Volunteers currently serving with our United Nations partners in mental health, psychosocial support and counselling. Meet three of these UN Volunteers: Leonardo Martínez, Gisella Tani Pratiwi and Shatabdi Khastagir.
Leonardo Martínez is a UN Volunteer serving as Protection, Childhood and Humanitarian Action Specialist with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Colombia, which is the lead host country for Venezuelan migrants and refugees.
These migrants and refugees face a hoard of humanitarian issues. The situation is worsened by internal armed conflict, as approximately 6.9 million people in rural areas are under the control or influence of non-state armed groups.
Given his previous experience as a psychologist, Leonardo recognizes the importance of emotional health care during the humanitarian response.
Many of the issues our country and region have are emotional wounds. If they don't heal, then it's the children who suffer the consequences, replicating those violent behaviours in their adulthood. --says Leonardo Martínez, UN Volunteer Protection, Childhood and Humanitarian Action Specialist with UNICEF, Colombia
Volunteers like Leonardo are enabling inclusion, empowerment, equality and mental well-being for displaced people.
Gisella Tani Pratiwi has been an international UN Volunteer Staff Counsellor and Staff Welfare Officer since November 2022. She serves with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in its Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand.
A Clinical Psychologist by profession, Gisella hails from Indonesia and also works from there remotely. She wanted to contribute to improving the mental health of humanitarian personnel.
Her daily work includes offering personal and group counseling sessions, providing referrals and responding to critical incidents. She also provides managerial support to help IOM personnel develop strategies to cope with mental health challenges, in this way aiding their well-being at the individual and professional levels.
I believe every person has the right to have a good quality of mental health. My most gratifying moment is when IOM personnel report that the services I have rendered have had a meaningful impact on them. --Gisella Tani Pratiwi, UN Volunteer Staff Counsellor and Staff Welfare Officer with IOM, Thailand
Shatabdi Khastagir serves as a national UN Volunteer Child Protection Officer with UNICEF in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.
One year ago, Shatabdi embarked on a volunteering journey, contributing her knowledge and skills to make an impact in her own country. Her assignment entails working with implementing partners to ensure mental health and psychosocial support to children living in Cox's Bazar.
I participate in regular field monitoring to ensure that children in Cox's Bazar benefit from UNICEF’s services. I help them become resilient and thrive in their community. --Shatabdi Khastagir, national UN Volunteer Child Protection Officer with UNICEF, Bangladesh
In the face of adversity, Shatabdi looks after herself by taking breathers and breaks. "Working at a stressful duty station far from family can affect one mentally. Keeping myself busy and happy definitely helps. I like hanging out with friends, watching movies or having a food hunt. That gives me the strength to keep going."