WHO: “There is a worldwide absence of national youth mental health policy”

Füsun Çuhadaroglu: “Policy programming will make us stronger and more effective”

“Long term substantial improvement of youth mental health does not come automatically. This is something we need to organize: policies and policy programmes are indispensable to make some real steps forward in European child and adolescent psychiatry”, says professor Çetin Çuhadaroglu, who is responsible for ESCAP’s Policy Division.

Portrait of Füsun Çetin Çuhadaroglu Füsun Çetin Çuhadaroglu is well aware that the World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out less than ten years ago that such a policy is practically nonexistent. This is why she stands up to change this situation, not only as a board member of ESCAP, but also as the president of the Turkish Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (TACAP) and at the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Alied Professions (IACAPAP).
The conclusion of the WHO Atlas Project (2006) could not have been clearer: “There is a worldwide absence of identifiable national child and adolescent mental health policy.”

“Every nation needs
a CAMH policy”
Dr Çuhadaroglu: “The basic principle is very simple if we define a policy as a rule to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes, and a policy programme as a statement of intent that is implemented as a procedure or protocol. Every nation needs a policy and programmes because they enable us to transfer knowledge into real action. Without a policy programme it remains unclear what to do with our knowledge and how to do it.”
“Specifically in the interest of child and adolescent mental health we need a policy to determine the needs of children and adolescents, to develop an organization that meets these needs with relevant services, and to train personnel for efficient service delivery. A policy programme is of course preconditional for allocating resources for the implementation and sustainability of these national programmes and for utilizing these resources as efficient as possible.” 

Reduction of duplication
Dr Çuhadaroglu underlines the necessity of policy programmes for being able to work efficient and to create a conituum of care for children, adolescents and families. “With a proper programme we can make better use of our professionals en we will be able to utilize our facilities more efficiently. It is certain that within a policy programme, by the coordination of all services given, there will be a reduction of service duplication as well as inappropriate and wasteful treatment. On the whole, developing policies specific to child and adolescent mental health, and implementing programmes with relevant policies will make us stronger and more effective.”
“When we find it important to focus on specific areas of child and adolescent mental health – like child abuse or substance abuse – a policy programme will make this possible. It will also help us to achieve specific child and adolescent mental health policy objectives such as implementation of developmentally based perspectives, promoting healthy development and prevention of future risks.”

Policy Division
With the ESCAP Policy Division, Dr Çuhadaroglu intends to develop a framework for child and adolescent mental health policy for member countries. “It is our main aim to promote and advocate for the development and implementation of child and adolescent mental health policy programmes in member countries of ESCAP, and to have ESCAP supporting the wellbeing of children and adolescents at the highest level.

Successful survey
Çuhadaroglu: “Today’s mission of the ESCAP Policy Division is to develop a framework for a European child and adolescent mental health policy. One of the first steps in achieving this mission is to form an advisory group from member countries which have already developed their policy programmes. On the other hand, we will sent out a survey to members to screen the countries regarding this point. I would like to remind the representatives of the member countries about the importance of participating in this survey in framing the policy plans we will persue within ESCAP. Then we will develop a frame for a policy document and distribute the draft to members to get their opinions so that it can be revised and put in an efficient format to be used by all member countries.”
“We intend to collaborate with the national associations to encourage the governmental bodies to develop and implement sustainable child and adolescent mental health programmes. The advisory group will be supporting the national bodies in their work for the development of these programmes.”
Professor Çuhadaroglu and her team have discussed the subject at the ESCAP General Assembly, last September in Berlin. The Policy Division's survey was succesfully sent to all 33 ESCAP members on March 30th 2015 in order to inventory the policy situation in member countries. Almost all members (88%) completed the survey; the outcomes will be made available on this web page and at the ESCAP 2015 Congress in Madrid.

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