The Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee (SoCHum) is the Third Committee of the General Assembly. Its main role is to approach and discuss agenda items related to humanitarian affairs, which include the promotion of women’s rights, the protection of children, the elimination of racism and the treatment of refugees. Furthermore, the committee also addresses relevant sociocultural and development issues – such as matters related to youth, family, ageing, persons with disabilities and people with mental disorders (UN General Assembly, nd). Throughout the 20th edition of AMUN, SoCHum will target two topics: (A) Mental Health and Human Rights; and (B) Suicide as a Worldwide Public Health Issue.
Mental Health, as understood by the World Health Organization, is the “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (WHO, 2013, p. 8). Despite being a fundamental human right, its violation is far too common - during the last decade, mental disorders were accountable for 12% of global diseases (WHO, 2003). The problem is most frequently associated with young adults, the most productive section of the population and the one responsible for the broad development of countries. Moreover, many people carrying mental disorders or psychic suffering are usually harmed by inhuman practices, like torture, mistreatment, and cruel/degrading handling, being constantly deprived of their human rights (Ministério Público Federal [MPF], 2012).
Such violations tie in directly with the suicide issue, which is, nowadays, the second leading cause of death among teenagers and young adults worldwide, even overcoming HIV/AIDS (Clay, 2004). Thus, it should no longer be approached as an individual issue or even as a taboo. For a better comprehension of the matter, and consequently a more humanitarian approach, it is necessary to understand how mental diseases develop as a result of social disparities and historical consequences, including stigmatization of people with mental disabilities. According to Leenars (2003, p. 128), “a global response to suicide is needed so that it is not seen primarily as a crime, but as a multidimensional mental health problem that can be reduced”.
The motto for the 20th edition of AMUN, “Change through empathy”, paves the way for the discussions that will take place in the committee and demonstrates how they aren’t about a foreign and distant affair; they are about issues that affect our day to day lives and which everyone is subject to. Additionally, it is impossible to discuss mental health and suicide prevention without empathy for the psychic suffering of others - anything less than that will simply result in ineffective measures. It is also understood that especially with these themes, one must possess a profound care for other people’s well being so that the decisions taken are done with real meaning and intention, and the subjectivity of such themes can find true solidity in actions.
Therefore, the Third Committee of AMUN intends to explore the themes of Mental Health and Suicide as transnational problematics. These require a collective response from the policy-making and decision-taking actors, in the sense of (i) promoting empathy for individuals with psychic suffering, (ii) looking for the maintenance of their human rights, and (iii) preventing suicide. When mental disorders and suicide are discussed in a contextualized and socially connected manner, there is the possibility of promoting a society more focused on well-being. The challenge in this committee is to find ways to expand human empathy to global institutions - that is, to humanize the work of international organizations, while also understanding the need to recognize neuroatypical people as subjects of rights and as a specific group in the matter of mental health and physical integrity.