Warsaw Statement

From Warsaw to Rome: A Call for Global Action Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Children in Times of War
An International Conference The Royal Castle, Warsaw, Poland 27 -28 May 2022

On 19 May 2022, Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska, expressed the  urgency to address the psychological needs of Ukrainians affected by war,  especially youth. In announcing the national mental health program she said:  “ We want to do this with you based on your best experience.” The  Ukrainian First Lady’s call did not go unheard. 

The Warsaw Conference, “How to Ensure and Promote Mental Health  During War: Assessing and Responding to the Impact of Trauma on Child  and Adolescent Development”, organized by the Foundation Child and  Telefono Azzurro, with support of the Italian Government and the World  Psychiatric Association, gathered mental health professionals, academics,  policymakers, civil society organization, clergy, and private sector  representatives. 

The conference resulted in an urgent call for action to support Ukraine in  addressing mental health needs of their children. In her welcoming remarks  Poland’s First Lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda said: “We cannot let this evil  leave a long lasting destructive mark on the mental conditions of the weakest  and most defenseless victims of the war .“  

The Russian war against Ukraine targets children; millions of children have  fled or have been internally displaced or deported. Tragically, many of them  are unaccompanied, while most have already been traumatized by the  horrors of war, including loss of their parents, bombing, sirens, fleeing for  their lives, living in bomb shelters, being shot or raped. 

Poland, and other border countries, have been very generous in their  response to this crisis. Our joint task is to add to these efforts by supporting  institutions, strengthen services, and allocate resources to urgently address  the child and adolescent mental health needs in Ukraine and the countries  hosting Ukrainian refugees. 

Much has been done. But, with more work ahead, we will help build a  broad-based and participatory network to safeguard the mental health, and  futures, of children in Europe and throughout the world. Sensitive to context  and culture, the network will promote action by child and adolescent mental  health professionals, and relevant policymakers who will help develop  policies and initiatives tailored to the unique needs of traumatized children  and families. This must be done with the greatest respect for the cultural  differences and the unique needs of each child. Planning and implementation  must begin now, sustained by a network with expertise in child and  adolescent mental health and trauma. The rights of children must be  guaranteed also in time of crisis, when children must be treated with dignity,  heard, informed, and involved in shaping their futures.  

Ukrainian and Polish colleagues are at the forefront of this collaborative  initiative. They shared first-hand accounts, the existing efforts, and the  consequent needs. These include connecting and cooperating with  Ukrainian authorities, its mental health community and its civil society, with  ongoing guidance from Ukrainians who generously recognize that  innovation and success in Ukraine benefit the rest of the world’s children  survivors of war.  

The Conference, followed by an expert workshop on 28 May, included  extraordinary participation of many experts and leaders in the international  mental health community, as well as Ukrainian and Polish colleagues,  formed a significant starting point, with a credible scientific base for the  process that will move from words to actions.

Recommendations for Action

Participants to the Warsaw Conference will take the following steps to  address the immediate and long-term urgent and expanding mental  health needs of children, adolescents, and their families: 

1. Broadly share their knowledge and best practices for serving children  and adolescents victims of war, with training and supervision for  Ukrainian and Polish mental health care givers. 

2. Reach out to the scientific, governmental and non-governmental  community, starting in Ukraine, to develop strategies and actions for  assisting war victims, including to build long-term resilience. 

3. Develop strategies to provide a continuos flow of public and private  essential mental health resources.

4. Create an international youth mental health crisis awareness campaign,  starting with Ukraine.  

5. Create a user-friendly, freely available repository of resources,  including scientific materials, psychoeducational resources for children,  parents, and caregivers who are coping with post traumatic stress. 

6. Engage with the tech and social media community to optimize  opportunites for the dissemination of information and services, digitally  and in-print, building on existing initiatives. 

7. Make mental health care more broadly accessible by optimizing the use  of innovative tools and on-line information and service delivery, as well  as working with tech companies and clinical innovators to promptly  develop new tools for delivery of mental health training and mentoring,  using the metaverse, machine learning, artificial intelligence and other  technologies, via tablet, smartphone, and the web. 

8. develop a scalable plan for expanding community-based, high quality  mental health services by training mental health professionals, as well  as family doctors, social workers, nurses, teachers and volunteers, on  the use of available, evidence-based mental health prevention,  screening/assessment, early intervention, and treatment. 

9. Initiate high quality research programs to rapidly develop novel  evidence-based interventions that are culturally sensitive and provided  in multiple languages.  

10. Create a 24/7 help line for mental health and trauma available for  Ukrainian youth in and outside Ukraine, in cooperation with Ukrainian  relevant counterparts.

Under the auspices of the Italian Government, in autumn 2022, a follow up  international conference will be convened in Rome to finalize an  international action plan and a roadmap to respond to the growing mental  health crisis facing children, adolescents, and their families, with special  focus on Ukraine. 

Children are our present and our future. We cannot allow a lost generation. We  must do more, faster, and better to invest in their mental health.