Can Prioritizing Mental Health be a Game Changer for Global Development?

On September 25th, 2018 BLOOM Charity celebrates the 3rd anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At this historic event, the United Nations (UN) ratified 17 goals for a better world. The mission is extraordinary: to end poverty, promote equality, and protect the planet by 2030.

For us at BLOOM, the SDGs’ anniversary is especially significant:

For the first time in history, the United Nations recognized mental health as a global health crisis.

In conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN also recognized mental health as a priority for global development. Goal 3, Target 4 aims to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by one third, through prevention, treatment and promotion of mental health and well-being.

At BLOOM, we know that health is a crucial prerequisite for sustainable human development. We know that children need more than just food and clothing and that there can be no health without mental health. Mental health plays a key role in efforts to achieve equality, universal health coverage, human rights, and sustainable economic development.

We know orphans need nurturing to succeed in life. Children need to play, practice mindfulness, collaborate with one another, and develop friendships. Without these opportunities, children face much higher rates of suicide and mental disorders.

According to David A. Wolfe, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, a host of problems stem from neglect, including: poor impulse control, social withdrawal, difficulty regulating emotions, low self-esteem, pathological behaviors, poor intellectual functioning, and low academic achievement. (1)

Approximately eight million children live in orphanages across the world (2). 70% of children in orphanages show signs of depression. Another 70% show signs of mental disorders such as anxiety, PTSD and autism (3). Shockingly, young adults raised in institutions are 500 times more likely kill themselves.  (4)

BLOOM is committed to changing  that reality. Our Magical PlayGardens provide orphans with accessible and safe green spaces to play, learn, and heal. BLOOM is also working with experts to measure our projects’ impact. 

According to research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), access to green spaces in urban areas decreases self-reported mental illness by 63%. (4) Research shows that connecting with nature stimulates the senses in the body, which in turn, benefits all children, including those that are disabled; to adapt, cope and expand their personal abilities.

Nonprofits, academia and governments are the guardians of the SDGs. In that role, we need to hold the UN accountable. We hope that the UN member states stay committed to their 2030 agenda promise to leave no one behind. At BLOOM, we celebrate that mental health is finally being recognized as a global issue by the UN. We also remain committed to ensuring that hope blooms for institutionalized orphans in Morocco.

  1. Wolfe, D. A., & Hildyard, K. (2002). Child Neglect: Developmental Issues and Outcomes [Abstract]. 679-695. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from
  1. The number of residential institutions and the number of children living in them is unknown. Estimates range from ‘more than 2 million’ (UNICEF, Progress for Children: A Report Card on Child Protection Number 8, 2009) to 8 million (Cited in: Pinheiro, P., World Report on Violence against Children, UNICEF, New York, 2006). These figures are often reported as underestimates, due to lack of data from many countries and the large proportion of unregistered institutions.
  1. Aziz, Abdel & Thabet, Mousa & W Elhelou, Mohammed & Vostanis, Panos. (2017). Prevalence of PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety Among Orphaned Children in the Gaza Strip.
  1. South EC, Hohl BC, Kondo MC, MacDonald JM, Branas CC. Effect of Greening Vacant Land on Mental Health of Community-Dwelling Adults A Cluster Randomized Trial. JAMA Network Open. 2018;1(3):e180298. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0298
  1. (PDF) Available from: [accessed Sep 04 2018].


  • Noma Saeed is the COO and Co-founder of BLOOM Charity. Noma spent her career spearheading innovative strategies and solutions to align business and technology, maximizing impact and effectiveness of business initiatives with a broad-based transferrable skill set in digital media, business management and brand development. Noma's greatest passion is advocating for the rights of vulnerable children. Motivated by her faith, she is inspired to work towards this mission every day of her life. After 3 biological children, she became a mother through adoption in 2016. She lives with her husband and 4 children in Richmond, VA.

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