Promoting Well-being in the Twenty-first Century: Psychological Contributions for Social, Economic and Environmental Challenges

mental health


The meeting celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Psychology Day at the United Nations. Continuing the success of including the target of promoting mental health and well-being in the 2030 Agenda that outlines the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the organizer Psychology Day invited speakers who are mainly psychologists to discuss the relationship between mental well-being and other SDGs at three levels: environmental, economic, and social.

At the environmental level, Minu Hemmati reviewed the literature on the impact of environmental challenges on well-being. For example, climate change can increase people’s exposure to mental health consequences induced by disasters. Extreme heat is also correlated with the higher likelihood of mental illness. She then proposed employing psychological techniques such as group learning process to mediate the impact during policy-making and negotiation processes.

At the economic level, Ann Masten highlighted the concept of resilience, defined as “the capacity of a system to adapt successfully to challenges that threaten its life, function or development”. She explained that resilience can be enhanced in various settings such as families, schools, and communities via parenting, teaching and support, and healthcare services. She thus advocated investing in healthy lives and well-being, as it is crucial to building enduring resilience for societies.

At the social level, Doug Oman and Gustavo Gonzalez-Canali offered insights about two respective aspects: religion and gender. Oman suggested that “common ground strategy” usually employed by psychologists is the key that enables them to proactively support patients with spiritual perspectives in addition to professional expertise. Gonzalez-Canali, on the other hand, emphasized that women’s sexual and reproductive rights must be respected to promote development at all levels.

Overall, the meeting seems to suggest that mental health and well-being can be a cause instead of just the effect of environmental, economic, and social development, or degradation.

Meeting: Event on “Promoting Well-being in the Twenty-first Century: Psychological Contributions for Social, Economic and Environmental Challenges” (co-organized by the Permanent Missions of El Salvador and Palau)
Date/Location: Thursday, April 20, 2017; 15:00-18:00; Conference Room 4, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY
Speakers: Minu Hemmati, Ann Masten, Doug Oman, Gustavo Gonzalez-Canali
Written By: WIT Representative Jadice Lau

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