A new publication from the United Nations shows that 20 percent of the world’s young people experience a mental health condition each year.
The risks are especially great as they transition from childhood to adulthood. Stigma and shame often compound the problem, preventing them from seeking the support they need. For this year’s observance of International Youth Day, the United Nations wants to help lift the veil that keeps young people locked in a chamber of isolation and silence.
The barriers can be overwhelming, particularly in countries where the issue of mental health is ignored and there is a lack of investment in mental health services. Too often, owing to neglect and irrational fear, persons with mental health conditions are marginalized not only from having a role in the design and implementation of development policies and programmes but even from basic care. This leaves them more vulnerable to poverty, violence and social exclusion, and has a negative impact on society as a whole.
Young people who are already considered vulnerable, such as homeless youth, those involved in the juvenile justice system, orphaned youth and those having experienced conflict situations, are often more susceptible to stigma and other barriers, leaving them even more adrift when they are most in need of support. Let us remember that with understanding and assistance, these young people can flourish, making valuable contributions to our collective future.
We have just about 500 days to reach the Millennium Development Goals. We must support all young people, especially those who are vulnerable, to succeed in this historic campaign.
Wide-ranging efforts at all levels are needed to raise awareness about the importance of investing in and supporting young people with mental health conditions. Increased education is crucial in reducing stigma and in changing how we talk about and perceive mental health.
Mental health is how we feel; it is our emotions and well-being. We all need to take care of our mental health so that we lead satisfying lives. Let us begin to talk about our mental-health in the same way we talk about our overall health.
As we mark International Youth Day 2014, let us enable youth with mental health conditions to realize their full potential, and let us show that mental health matters to us all.
(Message for International Youth Day – August 12, 2014)